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Putting work in perspective
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The tragic death of Costa Mesa city worker Huy Pham after jumping from atop the City Hall building last week - hours after receiving a layoff notice - should serve as a wakeup call. In these depressing economic times, everyone needs to remember that our jobs are not who we are. That might seem like a simple concept, but it isn't. Our culture is centered on ambition and "The American Dream." The first thing many people ask when meeting someone for the first time is "What do you do?" If you are unemployed, being asked this question can be a nightmare.In America we are raised to believe anything is possible and all you need to succeed is a good work ethic, dedication and perseverance. While all those qualities will help one achieve their goals, life is not fair. Sometimes the most qualified applicant doesn't get the job. Sometimes the most innovative businesses are forced to close. And sometimes the most dedicated employees receive pink slips.In those times of utter unfairness, when nothing you do or say can change the facts, then the best course of action is taking stock of what is important. Faith, family, health and the infinite potential of the future are important to me. Others may have a different list, but regardless of what is on the list, the important thing is that work is not the only reason for living.

Without the job that consumed a good portion of their waking lives, many people find themselves stuck in neutral without the motivation to move forward. Sometimes this rut leads to depression and even suicide.

Widespread increases in unemployment, usually in the context of unstable or declining economic opportunity, are strongly linked with increases in suicide rates; the largest changes in the economic cycle generally produce the largest increases in suicides. These links between unemployment and suicide are especially strong for working-age men, but show up in other groups as well, including women. Suicide rates tend to decrease with rising optimism and opportunity.

The Suicide Prevention Resource Center recommends individuals engage in activities that relieve anxiety and emotional stress and focus on managing areas in their lives where they still have some control. For instance, people can strengthen their connections with family members and friends, schedule regular times for healthy and relaxing activities, and seek re-employment training.

The resource center also recommends individuals who need additional help and support seek the advice of a faith leader, doctor, or community health or mental health clinic. And anyone who feels they are in suicidal crisis (or are concerned about someone who is) should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).