Stress of layoff wears on many

WILMINGTON, Ohio (AP) — Lora Walker’s small horse farm has been a refuge since losing her job at ABX Air.

To delay possible foreclosure, Walker is thinking of selling her piano because she has only enough money to make mortgage payments until August.

“Everything came crashing down at once, and I can’t control any of it,” said Walker, 50, whose husband died after a heart attack several years ago. “It’s been stressful.”

Walker is among thousands of women in Clinton County whose lives have been turned upside down as delivery company DHL Express pulls out of Wilmington, resulting in layoffs at DHL, ABX and other employers.

Mental health professionals say stress related to the layoffs is hitting women especially hard because they tend to be the family caretakers. Tearful breakdowns and marathon sleeping sessions are signs of the stress.

Nearly two-thirds of 617 Clinton County women surveyed by the American Psychiatric Association in March said the economy has had a negative impact on their mental health. That compared with a little over half of women polled nationwide.

Though many small American communities are reeling from job losses in the recession, few have been hit as hard, as widely and all at once as Wilmington, about 30 miles southeast of Dayton. Only about 3,300 of the 8,000 jobs at Wilmington Air Park remain from a year ago when DHL announced it was pulling out.

Government officials have been trying to get DHL to donate the air park to the community so it can lure job-creating companies to the site, but so far efforts to rebuild the local economy have gotten little traction.

Losing her job with ABX in November left Walker mentally and physically exhausted.

“There were times when I would be in bed for five days,” she said. “I have worried and stressed about everything. Things came to a finalization for me, and I went to bed, and I just slept — and I stayed there.”

To get badly needed cash, former DHL worker Cheryl Bradshaw and her husband are putting their small mobile home — bought to go on camping trips with their grandchildren — up for sale without having used it once.

“To be honest, I never thought I would be one of these people who would worry about being homeless,” Bradshaw, 49, said. “You realize, that could happen.”

Bradshaw worries about her two young grandchildren who live with her and her husband.

She left her job at DHL in December because her hours were cut back so drastically that it wasn’t worth it for her to make the 15-mile drive. Her unemployment benefits run out in July, leaving her husband Earl’s freelance grass-cutting as the family’s only source of income.

The Bradshaws support their two grandchildren, pay $550 a month to rent a farmhouse and rely on a 1997 Oldsmobile with more than 200,000 miles on it. They have no health insurance.

Dr. Nada Stotland, the psychiatric association’s immediate past president, said stress can produce anxiety, irritability, insomnia, depression and even suicide. She said stress on women can be magnified because they feel responsible for the health of their families and tend to also worry about others.

Phyllis Mitchell, executive director of the Mental Health and Recovery Center of Clinton County, said at least two people who lost their jobs at the air park sought help from the center’s crisis program for depression and hopelessness. The center is distributing thousands of informational pamphlets to doctor’s offices, courts and other agencies in hopes of reaching people who may need mental-health care or counseling.

The Rev. Dean Feldmeyer, senior pastor at the Wilmington United Methodist Church, said men throughout the community are also suffering from stress.

When she’s not job-hunting, Bradshaw focuses on the needs of her grandchildren and tries to lose herself in crime novels.

And when times get too stressful, she has one-on-one, out-loud conversations with herself.

“They always make fun of me because I talk to myself and give myself answers,” she said. “If I do that, it don’t stay inside. It keeps you sane.”