Coping with depression has been a constant struggle for the Brigham family of Laurel since Garrow Brigham, 33, was laid off in December from his truck-driving job with the W.R. Grace Co. because of a slowdown in business.

Like many couples who are victims of the recession, Brigham and his wife, Cynthia, have reversed family roles. She found a job in a nearby shopping center to pay essential bills. He is caring for their four children, plus watching a neighbor woman's son in the mornings.

Although he says he's learning more about his children, "I go nuts, picking up after my kids, cleaning house. Laundry is really tough. I'm not used to it."

He says he is constantly depressed. "He doesn't have good patience with the kids," concedes Cynthia, 23.

Being without a job "makes me feel so down and out about life," Brigham says. "I think about bank robberies, something stupid."

"He doesn't like the type of work I'm doing, because it's a bar and a restaurant, but I applied everywhere," says Cynthia. The $2.01 an hour she is paid is far less than the $9.25 an hour her husband made and barely pays the $237 monthly rent on their three-bedroom town house. "There are days I make $35 in tips and that will get me groceries for that day."

The family's debts to utility companies have reached $700. "We were on an agreement with them on payments and we can't meet that," she says. "I'm just glad it's wintertime and they can't turn the heat off."

"I wanted a nice home for my kids, to give them a start in life," he says. "But there's no sense in me ever dreaming about a future.

"Some of my friends see a change in me; they say my disposition is more bitter. Well, they're right. I'm bitter."