Yesterday a couple of things happened that made me think of the relationship between suicide rates and financial crises; there was a letter in the post for Saagar from Wonga offering him money and we watched “The Big Short”.
The 2008 global financial crisis affected economies around the world. It led to the deepest UK recession since World War II, with rises in unemployment, debt and home repossessions. Young people experienced particularly high levels of job losses and unemployment. In England, as in the rest of the world, the greatest rise in the incidence of suicide appeared to be in young men.
Disputes over benefits, wage cuts or demotions and reduced hours are among the other sources of distress. A range of sources of debt were identified, including loans (e.g. hire purchase and student loans), mortgage, rent arrears, gambling and debts to friends and family. Many people do not get in touch with mental health services or their GP in situations like these.
People in the ‘know’ seem to think that we all are headed towards another global financial crisis. Austerity measures and job losses are all over the news. Several studies have shown that the people most vulnerable to job loss and debt are individuals with pre-existing mental health problems or past psychiatric illness. Thus vulnerable individuals may become more vulnerable during periods of recession.
Countries with more generous unemployment benefits and more investment in active labour market programmes (e.g. job search assistance, apprenticeships, subsidised employment) experience the smallest rises in suicide during recession.
A policy focus on creating work opportunities for young people is particularly important during periods of recession. Young people are the group most likely to be made redundant and experience difficulties finding work. Negative first experiences of job seeking and the labour market may have a permanent scarring effect.
Frontline staff most likely to be in contact with individuals whose mental health is affected by economic and employment difficulties should receive training in recognising and responding to risk.