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Kendall Worth: Dorothy’s story – How depression and poverty often go hand in hand

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Dorothy (not her real name) tells me she moved from Newfoundland to Dartmouth when she was only 18 years old.

What brought her to Dartmouth at that young age was her boyfriend at that time. After that relationship ended two years later she continued to work full time at a job she really liked.

One year later she got let go from that job. She was on Employment Insurance for a few months, then she went on Income Assistance.

The social isolation that so often is part of a life on income assistance caused a severe depression. in 2014 she could not get approved for the transportation allowance and that is part of what happened that made her to want to sleep her days away and cut herself off from the world.

Because of  being depressed she slept all the time and only got out of bed to eat, and for things like medical appointments. She would sleep the day away, and watch TV at night.

She felt that losing her job and dealing with Community Services filled her life with a feeling of self hate. She had little or no willpower, and lacked the energy to do day to day activities. Sleeping felt like the best escape during this time in her life.

It felt like much longer, she says, but that depression lasted some 10 months.

During that entire time she didn’t keep in touch with family and friends.

It took a lot of work, but she managed to get out of her depression and this is how it happened!

Her parents back home in Newfoundland got worried about the amount of time that went by since they last heard from her. Dorothy’s family had no way to get in contact with her at that point in her life. Income assistance was denying her a telephone allowance as a special need.

Dorothy’s parents knew how to get in contact with her ex-boyfriend’s family. So her parents got in contact with them and, and a member of his family came over to check on Dorothy.

They called 911, and Dorothy was taken to the hospital.  Dorothy’s family also lives in poverty, but the minute her parents found out that she was sleeping all this time away that they have not heard from her, they were not long coming to Halifax.  

Dorothy received mental health treatment and eventually was released from hospital.

Following her hospital stay, she got accepted into an employment readiness program, and she made new friends through going to these programs. Also, Community Services at that point approved her for the telephone allowance and the transportation allowance.

These days her life is much improved. She has a part-time job, receives income assistance, does some volunteer work in her community, and sleeps only at night when most people sleep.  

Since she snapped out of sleeping 12 hours a day she has learned that she is not alone in feeling depressed. Depression and poverty often go hand in hand.

Dorothy’s story illustrates the unhealthy ways some people tend to deal with depression and poverty. But now, still young at only 28 years old, she has learned that it is not too late to change her life around.

Kendall Worth is an award-winning anti-poverty activist who lives with disabilities and tries to make ends meet on income assistance.

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