Pieta House, an organisation dealing with prevention of suicide and selfharm, is reporting an increase in the numbers of, particularly young, people, who are considering suicide in the context of the economic crisis.
There has been a rise of 21% in self-harm cases involving men aged 20-24 since 2008 and the first three months of 2009 saw a 43% increase in the number of suicides recorded. While the causes of suicide and selfharm are complex, it’s unsurprising that the stresses and pressures of the recession would have an impact. An American study found that unemployed people, for instance, are two to four times more likely to commit suicide.
Even during the boom, suicide and self-harm among young people was a major crisis. Ireland has the third highest rate of suicide among young men in the OECD. This rate has doubled since 1977 and is the most common cause of death for young men.
There was never any decent funding given to suicide prevention. It receives a tenth of the funding of road safety measures, despite being a higher cause of deaths. Now, even the funding which was available is under attack. Disgracefully, the HSE has cut funding to a number of mental health groups it was funding by up to 12.5%. We can’t accept cuts to these agencies in the context of the increased pressures of the recession. Instead, there needs to be a significant increase in funding.
We also need to look at the social roots of suicide, which are being exacerbated by the recession caused by an economic system based on the greed of the few. There is no one cause of suicide but poverty and social exclusion feed into the issues around suicide and mental health. Young people, having grown up being told that they would be able to get a job and a decent standard of living, are particularly vulnerable to the feelings of inadequacy and isolation which accompany unemployment. We shouldn’t accept this dead end existence, which is all that capitalism has to offer. A society where the wealth is under democratic control and people have real say in how their lives are run is needed to ensure that the greatest possible chance of a healthy and happy life is available to all.