Banktown Breakdown

Our bank accounts aren't the only things down these days



Percentage of people in the United States who say they're stressed over money

With 650,000 people losing their jobs in February in the United States — the most since 1949 — in addition to the 11.7 percent unemployment rate here, it's no wonder people are seeking mental help (and reaching for Paxil, Xanax, and other head meds) to cope with the hard times. According to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association, 80 percent of Americans reported the economy as a significant cause of stress (up from 66 percent in April 2008).

"I've had more people than we'd normally see coming in for anxiety," says Jim Schaffer, MD, of SouthPark Family Physicians. Many of Schaffer's patients are married to bank employees or others who might face layoffs. Docs aren't the only ones fielding the mental illness cry for help: Mecklenburg Area Mental Health saw a 50 percent increase in calls to its MeckLINK help line in December 2008 compared with December 2007.

Anxiety about job security is most common among patients, especially those who work for Wachovia and Bank of America, says Elizabeth Peterson-Vita, MD, clinical director of Mecklenburg AMH. "In Charlotte, it's particularly on our mind because of how our crucial industry is being affected," she says. "This is something that's on everybody's mind. You see the societal anxiety."

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