MONEY

Persistent Sadness, and other Leading Economic Indicators

Do you find yourself bursting into tears watching CNBC on a down day for the Dow? Do you find yourself gritting your teeth in anger when you compare the size of your once-healthy 401(k) to fat bonuses given to the very Wall Street wizards who helped to get us into this mess?

These aren’t altogether unreasonable reactions, of course. But if your anxieties about the economy have caused “persistent sadness,” leaving you absolutely paralyzed, a new government web site warns, you might need help — and not just of the financial kind. This week the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) launched an online guide to “Getting Through Tough Economic Times.”

“Economic turmoil (e.g., increased unemployment, foreclosures, loss of investments and other financial distress) can result in a whole host of negative health effects – both physical and mental,” the site notes, increasing your risk for serious mental health problems like depression, compulsive gambling, substance abuse and even suicide. The bare-bones site helpfully and sensibly suggests ways to cope with these issues and points people to resources online and off.

Perhaps all too predictably, the site has drawn sniping from political ideologues like Matt Drudge and Michelle Malkin who seem to hate the very thought of the government trying to help people with anything. Over on the “Moonbattery” blog, a fellow calling himself Van Helsing launches into an incoherent tirade about the money our “taxpayer-funded drones” have invested in the SAMHSA site.

“Persistent sadness can also be a result of realizing that your country has been turned over to a Marxist community activist who is systematically destroying it,” the would-be vampire killer writes. “First we’ll steal your money. Then we’ll wreck the economy with insane regulations, such as dictating that mortgage loans be made based on race. When this ruins your life, we’ll provide you with instructions for finding a hanky to weep into. Isn’t the liberal State benevolent?”

Uh, never mind the SAMHSA site is little more than a glorified press release, with links to resources that already exist, like an online Mental Health Services Locator. It probably cost a tenth of a tenth of a tenth of a hundredth of a single AIG bonus. If this modest, useful site incites you to a paroxysm of rage, you may not need to check your head, but you definitely need to check your heart.

–David Futrelle

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