Along with such issues as alcoholism, drug abuse and depression, the Dublin Counseling Center helps people address problems resulting from job loss.

Along with such issues as alcoholism, drug abuse and depression, the Dublin Counseling Center helps people address problems resulting from job loss.

Dublin's unemployment rate since the recession began in 2007 peaked at 7.2 percent in April and July 2010. Although the city's current unemployment rate is about 5.2 percent, residents continue to seek help for stress, grief and other mental issues associated with unemployment, and the Dublin Counseling Center tries to help.

"We've seen people who have never been out of work before who have lost jobs in their late 50s," center executive director Julie Erwin-Rinaldi said. "They're thinking about retirement and suddenly out of a job. They are having a tough time getting back into the workforce at that age. Being unemployed at a later age is quite shocking and traumatic."

According to a 2009 survey completed by nonprofit organizations Mental Health America, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Depression is Real Coalition, those who are unemployed are "four times as likely as those with jobs to report symptoms consistent with severe mental illness."

The survey also found that "Americans who experienced involuntary changes in their employment status, such as pay cuts or reduced hours, also are twice as likely to have these symptoms, even though they are employed full time."

The trauma of job loss

Rinaldi said losing a job can cause grief, just as the loss of a loved one does.

"There's a lot of correlation between losing a job and grief. The grief of losing a loved one has a lot of the same dynamics," she said. "All our clinical staff is trained in working with people who have been through some kind of trauma and that would include unemployment. We've done extensive training in the past where we prepare to work with people going through that trauma. That's been an emphasis of ours. In the last two years, we really pushed it, so we were really prepared."

The Dublin Counseling Center serves all of central Ohio, clinical director Kathy Ritchey said.

"We serve all of Franklin County and central Ohio," she said. "Certainly, we do see a higher percentage of people from Dublin."

The counseling center receives financial support from both Dublin and Washington Township. Trustee Denise Franz King said it's important to support a service that provides help to residents and fits the needs of the time.

"We're very in touch with the community, and when there are stressors, we are aware of it," she said. "There are issues such as increased use of drugs and alcohol, in relation to loss of jobs or depression related to changes in employment, and we need to be there to help folks through those difficult times, especially those of us fortunate enough to go to work every day."

"We definitely are experiencing clients who are experiencing stress related to all the issues in the economy, whether it's job loss or financial difficulty," Ritchey said. "The hard thing is that as our budget gets cut, based on less funding, it's very hard to manage for their issues, too."

Franklin County's unemployment rate was 7.4 percent in May, up from 7.3 percent in April. In Dublin, the unemployment rate was 5.2 percent in March, the latest statistics available.

"With unemployment being so high, too, there's the stress of 'Will I be able to find another job? Will I be able to support my family?'" Ritchey said.

Other job loss issues

Long-term job loss doesn't just mean depression alone. It can also lead to other issues.

"With a job loss, you can see the first thing that comes to mind is an increase in alcohol or drug use or using coping strategies that are not the healthiest," Ritchey said. "There can be increased conflict in marriage, and some of that could be related to identity. Even more so is just the feeling overwhelmed and not knowing what the future will look like.

"With the unemployment rate as high as it is, people have a different outlook on how difficult it would be to get a job," Ritchey said. "I hear people talking about how long it will take to get a job. I've seen people who have been out of work for two years. I also see college students finishing college, scared they would not be able to find a job or accepting a job that underutilizes their education just so they have a job."

Help offered to those struggling through long-term job loss at the Dublin Counseling Center includes counseling to help an individual or a family with a child who acts out because of the stress.

"We have individual, couples, family and group counseling. That all happens here at the center," Ritchey said. "We also have outreach workers who provide more case management, which is linking people with resources. Another thing we do is a public-education program."

Rinaldi said she recently spoke about mental-health issues at another service for those who are unemployed: 40 Plus. The nonprofit 40 Plus of Central Ohio is a job-search organization for "experienced professionals of all ages who are actively seeking better career opportunities," the group's website states.

For more information about the Dublin Counseling Center's services, call (614) 889-5722.