In a time of financial despair, when a father is willing to slaughter his wife, five children and then turn the gun on himself because ends will not meet, it’s no surprise that the mind and money are greatly linked.
As America faces high unemployment rates, increasing debt and economic instability, such behaviors may become more frequent, and professionals across many occupations are confirming the nation’s recession is not solely a monetary crisis.
“Very few people if you ask them ‘who are you?’ start off saying ‘I’m a spiritual being occupying a physical body.’ Most people say, ‘I’m a teacher. I’m a doctor,’” assistant professor of economics, accounting and finance, Danny Taylor, said.
His point is that humans derive much of their identity from their occupation. When jobs are disappearing and money is becoming less available, self worth and individuality may also be damaged. Every person is at risk.
Dr. Jim King, dean of the College of Business, said the crisis has had a negative effect on college students across the nation.
“A lot of them are not able to get the loans they’ve been able to get in the past to even go to school because of the withdrawing of funds or because financial institutions are holding onto money more tightly,” he said.
Additionally, many students are not returning to school in order to get full-time jobs because families are experiencing parent layoffs, and all resources have been exhausted, so there are simply no means for paying tuition.
“People are looking at lower cost alternatives,” King said. “A lot of UMHB students have to find part-time jobs to cover their own expenses because parents can’t afford everything.”
Prospective students will also be affected this fall.
“Many will be going to community college to make university funding more affordable,” King said.
He believes it is hard to predict how long the nation will be in a recession.
“It’s a really tough call,” he said. “Experts are expecting the economy will stay the same for one to two years.”
America is in for the long haul.
“I don’t know if we’re going to get a lot worse,” King said, “but we’re not going to get better very fast.”
One critical part in the healing process is what is being done on the federal government level.
President Barack Obama was elected into office on a platform anticipating change.
“He was promoting what we would call the economics of hope,” King said. “He created hope in people that his presidency would have a positive impact on people, and part of that would be in responding to the financial crisis. Hope has been established, so there’s an expectation that things are getting better.”
Taylor believes the immediate effect of the stimulus package will be psychological.
“People tend to associate spending, job creation, economic growth, budget deficits and inflation with Democrats,” he said. “We have a very popular Democratic president and huge Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, so if people anticipate economic growth, even if there are long-term consequences that are unpleasant …. Down the road, more individuals and a big percentage of business firms are going to go ahead and spend.”
Obama’s nearly $827 billion recovery stimulus package, which is attempting to work across controversial party lines, includes bailouts for financial institutions, the creation of new jobs, the restoration of public schools and plans to utilize natural resources. The plan is expected to be finalized later this month.
In result, King believes people’s confidence in spending will cause stimulation.
“If people think things are going to get better they’re going to act and behave in ways that will improve the economy,” King said. “My hope is that there will be dollars allocated to organizations that will be fiscally responsible … and if that is the case, our society in general will have those hope expectations met.”
King believes people must see that dollars are spent successfully and the needs of society as a whole are being met before they can trust government programs.
“If we don’t have evidence, then that original economics of hope is going to have an opposite effect, much like the individual in California who killed himself and his family,” King said. “There are a lot people who are going to be in that situation if they don’t see the results of the stimulus package benefiting large portions of the public.”
From a leadership position, Obama is promoting expectation in future successes. From a business aspect, King believes faith is the key to financial stability, and from a psychological perspective, doctors are suggesting belief in bettering circumstances. There is no irony in the parallelism of all of their messages.
“Hope alone will not solve the issues of the economy, but it will help get us to the point where we’ll have patience to allow the financial things to take more time,” King said. “If we don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, no stimulus package will help us.”
That light may be what professionals believe to be the link between mental and economical stability.
“There is a huge connection between the two,” Dr. Betty Clark, associate professor of psychology, said. “In times of crisis or in any economic downturn like this, mental health professionals are going to experience a lot more calls.”
Clark believes there will be evident changes in the way people react and how they handle pressures emotionally and physically.
“The mind and the body are certainly connected,” Clark said. “Mental illness and people seeking treatment for emotional problems are increasing.”
Psychologists believe anxiety and depression disorders will increase as well as self-medication issues.
“People get very worried that they are not going to be able to provide for their families … becoming helpless,” Clark said. “It’s a form of depression. It’s when you feel like nothing you do makes a difference. You keep getting turned down for job after job and then can’t pay your bills.”
People then choose a response behavior, which in this “pill-popping society,” as Clark suggests, is to find an immediate relief from distress.
“People cope with their emotions in different ways,” she said. “I expect we’ll see an increase in alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence and theft. People will be frustrated and take their anger out by breaking the law, or will need money so will commit a robbery.”
Death tolls may also increase with economical and emotional strains.
“Sadly enough, suicidal behavior is also related to loss of income,” Clark said. “It doesn’t matter how much you have; it’s the loss of wealth. It is not what you have; it’s when you go from having something to having less. The perception people have about that is the problem.”
Recessions often cause people to feel threatened.
“It’s a blow to our egos and when we can’t make everything OK,” Clark said. “Belief that things will turn out all right is what keeps us going during hard times and that belief has been shaken. Any kind of big change like this will affect everybody’s mentality, so this may be something good for these generations and generations to come that even though this is a wealthy country, no one is immune from downturns. Maybe we’ll learn to save more and spend less.”
Establishing healthy thoughts and habits can deflect negative responses.
“We need to focus on all of the positive things … and make the negative ones a much smaller piece,” Clark said. “We must understand that this is a temporary phase the country is going through, and everybody in their cycle of life goes through ups and downs. This is for the nation a down period … but it doesn’t mean it’s always going to be this way.”
Clark and other professionals suggest establishing routines, maintaining social support systems, building healthy habits, keeping active in the community and making small changes that reap big effects.
“People underestimate how much good it really does when you get outside your troubles and help someone else. That can be healing in itself,” she said. “What you want to stay away from is the hopeless, helpless paradigm. It’s dangerous for anyone to get into. You can’t hide in your dorm room and avoid tackling difficult questions. You have to put the pencil and paper together and see how much things are costing you and if there is a way you can economize.”
Clark also suggests students have a good understanding of their financial situation, approach it proactively and communicate effectively with their families.
“We have to make sure we recognize this as just a temporary down time rather than a complete regression of something that’s unhealthy and bad overall,” she said. “If you feel like you’re out of control, or if you’re in so much psychological pain, you need to seek help. There are a lot of good counselors … and (resources) here on campus.