Unemployment is considered a well-established risk factor for suicide and has been shown to be a major contributor to individuals seeking treatment for depression.

So with the state losing more than 757,000 jobs in the month of April, on top of hundreds of thousands more towards the end of March, mental health professionals are keeping a close eye on those with preexisting mental illness, and hoping those new to these mood issues are aware that there are still people available to speak with during this pandemic.

"No one is immune to this. Because for most people, their job is a major part of their identity," said Dr. Daniel Finch, director of psychiatric urgent care services for the nonprofit CarePlus NJ in Paramus.

Finch said an increase in the suicide rate is anticipated based on research. According to data released in part by the National Bureau of Economic Research, for every 1% increase in the unemployment rate, there's an approximate 1% increase in the suicide rate and a 3% increase in drug overdose deaths, the New York Post reported in April.

In the middle of March, New Jersey's unemployment rate held steady at 3.8%. It has since skyrocketed to a record high of 15.3%, mainly due to the COVID-19 public health crisis.

The New Jersey Suicide Prevention Hopeline (1-855-654-6735) said it could not comment on call volume.

Suicidal ideation is among the most extreme effects of depression. For most, the extreme sadness will lead to changes in mood and behavior that may be spotted by those who know what to look for.

"A lot of times mental illness goes unnoticed by loved ones and the person themselves," Finch said.

With the help of a grant, CarePlus NJ was able to create a program called Employment Matters that offers a full evaluation, from mental health to employment concerns, to individuals who are struggling.

"We can get them hooked up with school, with employment with benefits, and if they need a psychiatrist or therapist, we have a dedicated team to handle those issues as well," Finch said.

According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance New Jersey, symptoms of depression can include:

  • Prolonged sadness or unexplained crying spells
  • Significant changes in appetite and sleep patterns
  • Irritability, anger, worry, agitation, anxiety
  • Pessimism, indifference
  • Loss of energy, persistent lethargy
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness
  • Inability to concentrate, indecisiveness
  • Inability to take pleasure in former interests, social withdrawal
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
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