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Depression Increasing Amid Stock Market Chaos

Posted October. 28, 2008 09:12,   


Housewife Shin Yeong-hee, 54, lost 75 percent of 50 million won (34,370 U.S. dollars) that she invested without her husband’s knowledge due to the sharp fall in the stock market.

With her husband’s business tanking, she put her home up for sale but is delaying paying mortgage payments because of little buyer interest. Shin said she wakes up several times at night, and feels stressed during the day, getting occasionally angry while talking to her children.

She said she once consulted a psychiatrist last year because of menopause depression. “I am much more depressed now than last year,” she said. “I feel like I am stuck in an endless tunnel.”

▽ Depression cases rise 20 percent

An increasing number of people say they feel nervous and depressed due to the plunge in stock and housing prices in the wake of the global economic crisis. About 20 percent of psychological patients at university hospitals suffer from depression due to the fall in their assets.

Ha Ji-hyeon, a psychiatry professor at Konkuk University Hospital, said, “Five out of 20 to 30 outpatients per day say they feel helpless due to the fall in stock prices.”

Sales representative Kim Ki-dong, 33, paid 800,000 won (550 dollars) a month into mutual funds and stocks over the past two years to pay for his wedding in November. Since then, however, he has lost 30 million won (20,800 U.S. dollars).

“I couldn’t get a rental home near Seoul. Instead, I got one in Cheonan (South Chungcheong Province),” he said. “I often quarrel with my fiancée because I feel nervous.”

A 38-year- old manager of a small company said he feels anxious because of rumored layoffs due to a drastic decline in revenue. Since most of the work at his department overlaps with other sections, he said his department will be the first victim of a layoff.

He says he easily gets angry at small things because he is seriously considering applying for early retirement to receive a bigger severance package.

“Anxiety causes stimulation of the autonomic nervous system, which makes people sensitive and nervous,” said Ha Tae-hyeon, a psychiatry professor at Seoul National University Bundang Hospital. “Temporary anxiety can be sedated with antidepressants, but if it continues, extreme panic disorder or obsession could ensue.”

▽ ‘You are not alone’

Psychiatrists say sharing pain with other people is helpful for overcoming depression and anxiety.

Namgung Ki, a psychiatry professor at Yonsei Severance Hospital, said,” Depression stems from feeling helpless about the situation such as ‘I made a mistake and cannot turn this back’. Since it is not just your mistake, you have to focus on what you can do to protect your mental health.”

Keeping the proper distance and becoming more objective rather than worrying too much is also important, psychiatrists say. Relaxing for a few days in a quiet place and reflecting on the situation in comfort is also helpful.

If serious anxiety hits, one suggestion is to close the eyes for five minutes and breathe slowly. Depressed people should also talk about their problems with others and get professional help.

“People could grow anxious to the point where they consider suicide after suffering huge losses on their stock investments,” Nam said. “But when they feel that depressed and think the future is gloomy, they must seek psychiatric help right away.”

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