Case study – Brian (48 years old)

Brian was made redundant two years ago, and has not been able to find a job. He has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and is experiencing symptoms of depression. He frequently self-medicates with alcohol. 

brianBrian is a 48 year old male with a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). He is a heavy smoker of more than 30 years. Brian was made redundant from his position as a machinist in a factory when the company decided to shift to a production facility based overseas. He has been out of full-time employment since his redundancy (two years) and is on the Jobseekers Benefit. His COPD symptoms have worsened since the redundancy, and he is experiencing symptoms of depression.

Brian’s respiratory physician noticed Brian’s persistent low mood over several clinic appointments and commented on it in follow-up notes sent to his GP. When meeting with Brian, the GP suggested counselling, offering a referral. The GP also mentioned Brian could consider antidepressant medication. Brian’s GP asked him about his alcohol intake, and Brian stated he drank most days to self-medicate. He frequently will drink alone as a way to pass the time and get out of the house.

Brian's story
'When the boss said they were moving production offshore, I got a sinking feeling that didn’t go away. We got a redundancy, but it wasn’t much, and I had been with the company for a long time. Part of going on the dole is going to meetings that look at your skills and capabilities – I left school pretty much as soon as I could and went to work at the factory with the rest of the boys, so I don’t think I could do much good in an office, and there aren’t many factories here anymore. 

That was two years ago, and I haven’t been able to get anything full-time since – just the odd bit of labouring work. I get pretty low – I’m smoking more, which makes my emphysema worse and I find it hard to breathe. Even heading to the back porch for a smoke is an effort. 

I feel pretty down most of the time, especially as I can’t provide for my family in the way that I used to – the dole isn’t much to go on these days. I had an appointment with the doctor at the hospital for my breathing and she asked me how I was doing – she knew about the redundancy. I thought I was going to burst into tears, the question took me by surprise. The GP asked me lots of questions about how I’m coping since the factory closed, and suggested I think about going on some medication, and that I talk to a counsellor. 

I haven’t done anything about it yet – I don’t know if that is something I want to do right now. I would rather have a few drinks, and not think about that sort of stuff. At least when I’ve had a few its easier not to get stuck in it. I’ll drink most days – have done since I lost my job. At home or down the pub, doesn’t really matter. Alcohol is pretty easy to get around here.'
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