Increased suicide risk in recession must be met with extra Govt support for prevention services

The Fine Gael Spokesperson with Special Responsibility for Mental Health, Dan Neville TD, today (Monday) called on the Minister for Health and Children to respond to the heightened risk of suicide and mental illness as a consequence of economic recession by increasing the budget allocation to prevention services.

“Research into suicide since the 1890s shows that there is an increase in suicide rates and mental illness during times of economic recession. I call on the Minister for Health and Children and the HSE to respond to this need in the present economic crisis. There should be an immediate allocation of €10 million extra to the National Suicide Prevention Office to respond to the suicide prevention challenges of society’s changed circumstances. There is a precedent for doing this. In November, the Minister for Social Affairs allocated almost €11 million extra funding to provide for a range of marriage, child and bereavement counselling services and support through the new and most difficult times in their family lives. The Minister for Health and Children must now respond in a similar fashion to the mental health difficulties and the increased risk of suicide arising from the changed circumstances.

“Economic strain and personal financial crises have been well documented as precipitating events in individual deaths by suicide. Stressful life events, financial and others, have significant impact on those vulnerable to suicide where typical coping mechanisms are compromised by the effects of mental disorder, substance use, acute psychiatric symptoms, and most of the other risk factors associated with suicide.

“Unemployment affects the suicide rate. Unemployment has a profound effect on a person, especially on the young and on those in middle age. Irish society awards status and prestige according to a person’s position and contribution to work. Unemployment is associated with loss of face and of prestige. The unemployed are six times more likely to be suffering from a psychiatric disorder than those in employment. Studies show that there is significantly more unemployment, job instability and occupational problems amongst those who die of suicide compared to those who do not do so. Of the men who took their lives in the Kelleher/Daly Cork Study in the 1980s two thirds were out of work at the time of their deaths.

“The high rate and threat of home foreclosures is of concern. For most Irish, our homes are our primary investment and the locus of our identities and social support systems. When combined with the loss of employment, home loss or the threat of home loss, has been found to be one of the most common economic strains associated with suicides.

“The Minister for Health and Children must immediately respond to the psychological and emotional and psychiatric difficulties visiting our people as a result of the changed economic times and in doing this must recognise the need to enable the National Suicide Prevention Office to respond to this in the context of suicide.”