Hopelessness, Despair, Suicide
I don’t know if suicides are more in the news lately or if I’m just noticing them more due to paying closer attention to the various news sources and possible causes. In March I wrote this post asking (rhetorically) “How Many Suicides Will There Be?” after seeing an article at the LA Times on a Costa Mesa, CA city employee who had committed suicide after receiving a lay-off notice.
Today’s (Friday, April 15) NY Times has an article on a study linking suicides to the overall economy. From the article:
The suicide rate increased 3 percent in the 2001 recession and has generally ridden the tide of the economy since the Great Depression, rising in bad times and falling in good ones, according to a comprehensive government analysis released Thursday.
Experts said the new study may help clarify a long-clouded relationship between suicide and economic trends.
In the study, which appears in The American Journal of Public Health, researchers at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined suicide rates per 100,000 Americans for every year from 1928 to 2007.
To investigate the effect of business cycles, the researchers calculated the average rate during periods when the economy contracted and compared it with the average during the years leading to downturns. The sharpest increase occurred at the start of the Great Depression, when rates jumped 23 percent — to 22.1 in 1932, from 18.0 in 1928. The study found smaller bumps during the oil crisis of the early 1970s and the double-dip recession of the early 1980s, among other economic troughs.
When otherwise mentally healthy people get laid off, see their savings spiraling down the tubes, have banks threatening to repossess their homes, or get otherwise personally caught up in our national economic crises, they are miserable while trying to figure out what to do in response and how to come to terms with their new reality. When people with underlying mental health issues (clinical depression, PTSD, substance abuse, etc.) find themselves in these circumstances, however, it becomes exponentially harder for them to cope with the exterior economic stresses.
Hopelessness and despair due to the economic environment.
Peterr’s second post was more in line with this post from Jim White today on the suicide of Clay Hunt of the IAVA (Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America). From Peterr’s second post:
Desperate times and desperate circumstances lead desperate people to take their own lives. Suicide has many causes, and it seems that each victim has his or her own mix of issues and pressures that led them to kill themselves. Whatever the specifics of each case are, the two aftereffects of suicide are the same in every case: someone is dead, and the lives of their family and friends and neighbors are twisted with grief and often guilt.
From Jim White’s post:
So the Pentagon knows that returning vets face a high suicide risk and yet the Pentagon refuses to include these deaths among the official suicide figures. This means, of course, that the suicide figures actually are even much higher than the Pentagon admits.
As a veteran of the USAF, I managed to avoid serving during a time of “hot war” but I had many friends from my home town, high school, and college who served during Vietnam. I think we are seeing a very similar effect of the “disposable people” with the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. We send men and women to fight in a foreign land and when they return it seems to become more of “Yeah, but what have you done for us lately?”
Whether it is due to economic hopelessness and despair or post traumatic stress disorder hopelessness and despair from serving in war, we are seeing too many suicides from people who seem to feel the world has left them with no other option.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has lots of helpful information for those who are concerned about this issue, including warning signs of suicide and knowing how to respond to them.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). It’s free, confidential, and they’ve got a national network of 130 crisis centers to help. If that’s too much to remember, just call 911.
Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy