Suicide: The Other Economic Depression

"There is a link between mental disorders and suicide. The most common disorder is depression and a life-changing event can trigger depression at any age," she said. "Lots of people lose their jobs and get depressed -- that's normal. But then, they bounce back. Other people, though, don't just bounce back," she said.

Both Clayton and the government guide identify persistent feelings of sadness, lack of sleep, increased use of alcohol or drugs, anger and apathy as symptoms of mental illness.

"Some people experience a profound change in behavior. They feel deeply unmotivated, don't go look for new jobs and stay at home. They eat more or less than normal and they can't sleep properly. They lose focus and can't concentrate or work to get their resume in order. And they need help," Clayton said.

Government 'More Reactive Than Proactive'

The government site provides online tools that let users locate local mental health service providers and substance abuse treatment facilities.

Power said that funding for the site came out of the regular budget for the department's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, and its creation was not dictated by the Obama administration.

The federal government has been criticized in the past for its approach to dealing with mental illness. In the initial wake of the Iraq War, many mental health professionals were critical of the government's handling of soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Federal and state governments have been reluctant in the past to take mental health seriously," said Rafael Herrera, a professor of public health at the University of California, Berkeley. "The government has always been more reactive to problems than proactive.

"It's good news to hear the government is taking a more proactive approach with this Web site. Lots of people are affected and feel helpless. Some headway is being made that mental health issues have to be addressed because the consequences of doing nothing are much more costly," he said.

Power said that, although the Veteran's Administration and other government agencies had sometimes been less than proactive when dealing with mental health issues, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration had been proactive.

Today, LaTasha Peeler receives weekly counseling, and she's waiting to move into a new home paid for with government vouchers.

She said she would consult the Web site to see if there were other places, like churches, where she could receive more help and was happy the government was helping people hurt by the economy.

"I would check out the Web site," she said. "It's good that government wants to help people. People are suffering. They have a lot of problems. And when you don't have a job or a home, it's good to hear you still got options."

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