Amid persisting economic duress, worries rise about suicides
High-profile deaths – the latest being the mayor of Springfield, Ill., and the Florida school board shooter – have common backdrops of economic duress. Workplace suicides, too, rose during Great Recession.
(Page 2 of 2)
Suicide is historically linked to economic downturns. The rate peaked in 1933, the height of the Great Depression, at 17.4 per 100,000 people, according to the American Association of Suicidology, which studies suicidal behavior and advocates prevention. That peak came one year after the US unemployment rate reached 25 percent, a stark contrast to the jobless rate of 0.04 percent just a few years earlier.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The suicide rate has never revisited that 1933 level, but it has increased this decade – from 10.7 per 100,000 people in 2000 to 11.5 in 2007, the last year tabulated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Those latest figures predate the worst of the Great Recession.)
Suicides occurring in the workplace have definitely jumped during the Great Recession, from 196 in 2007 to 263 in 2008, the highest number ever reported by the National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. The number of workplace suicides dipped a bit to 237 in 2009.
Such public suicides occur when people feel a need to express their dissatisfaction about the issues that they feel drove them to take drastic measures, says Brad Bushman of Ohio State University in Columbus, who studies violence and suicide in the workplace.
Times of economic hardship include conditions that can be ripe for suicides, says Art Markman, a behavioral psychologist at the University of Texas in Austin. When people are confronted with situations that they feel are beyond their control, such as a recession, some may do whatever they can to seize ownership, he says.
“One thing that happens with recessions, on top of the stress, is the attempt to seize control of a situation. But the longer the stressful period goes, the harder it is for [the person] to control their behavior and regulate themselves,” Dr. Markman says.
Warning signs of suicide can be increased substance abuse or threats, says Zarse. For the person who may be experiencing economic-related stress, she says, the main objective is to regain a better sense of perception on the matter. Talking with others, either friends or a crisis hot line counseler, may help people in distress see their situation through a more hopeful lens.
The American Association of Suicidology also emphasizes that most crisis situations, including financial ones, are temporary. The organization cites studies involving Holocaust survivors to show that living through intense and difficult situations can actually strengthen family ties and personal beliefs.