This economic recession has negatively impacted many people and families nationwide. Nearly everyone I come into contact with has their story to tell of their husband, wife, sister, brother, or friend losing their job and being unable to find work. Some people can roll with the punches and others feel that they would be better off dead. What makes these people different? I chose this topic because it hits close to home and is a field of psychology that is of great interest to me. Does our nation now have to be concerned about a suicide epidemic? There are 5 questions that I will answer the best I can:
- Is there a gender or race/ethnicity that is more likely to commit suicide?
- How does one’s economic class such as low-income, middle-income, and high income affect suicide rates?
- Are married people with children at higher risk for suicide versus single people?
- If a person has a history of depression or mental illness, is he/she more likely to commit suicide as a result of an economic recession?
- Can a good social and family support system decrease the likelihood of a person committing suicide?
Unfortunately, I was unable to obtain any concrete evidence showing the correlation of suicide and economic recession amongst gender or race/ethnicity inequalities. Overall, the suicide rate is higher in white people at 12.3 recorded suicides for every 100,000 in 2005, with white men being 4 times more likely to commit suicide than white women. The suicide rate for white people is more than double the suicide rate for African Americans. The suicide rate for both races was higher in men than in women (Macionis, 2009).
With regards to economic class, T. Byram Karasu, chairman of psychiatry at Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine (2009) states the following:
“Middle-class people are less likely to commit suicide over money troubles because gains and losses are never that disproportionate; their family relationships tend to be closer, deeper and broader; and their religious beliefs are stronger and play a greater role in buffering their sense of hopelessness” (Karasu, 2009).
Suicide rates of the middle class do increase at times of job loss and when unemployment rates rise. The middle-income and lower-income class worries more about providing for their families at times of job loss and recession; whereas the higher-income class worries more about losing their identity and status as a wealthy person (Craig, 2009). During the Great Depression, suicides amongst the working class were responsible for a climb in suicide rates. It was not until the aftermath of the Great Depression when suicide rates increased from 14 deaths per 100,000 people in 1929 to 17 per 100,000 people in 1933. Ironically, during that same time period, the unemployment rate jumped from 3.2% to 24.9% (Stem, 2009).
People with a history of depression or psychiatric illness are at increased risk for committing suicide during an economic recession. Over 33,000 people commit suicide annually, and 90% of those people have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 2009). Given that high percentage, common sense would tell us that someone who already struggles with depression is more likely to commit suicide if faced with job loss and/or financial crisis. Speaking from someone with a 15-year history of depression, I can attest that my depression peaked at times of unemployment and financial crisis. In 1981, during an economic recession, my father who had a history of psychiatric illness, committed suicide after receiving word of his demotion at the Milwaukee Journal after 15 years of loyal service.
People can cope with financial crisis more effectively if they are socially integrated with family and community and can enjoy spending time with their friends and neighbors (Craig, 2009).
Based on my research, I do not feel we need to be concerned with a suicide epidemic in the United States due to an economic recession. Every income bracket is equally susceptible to becoming depressed enough to end their life. The middle and lower class commit suicide due to concerns about not being able to provide for their family, and the wealthy take their own life because they are worried about losing their identity and status. People with a history of depression are more susceptible to suicide during an economic recession because it may cause them to hit their “breaking point.” People who have close friends, family, neighbors, and social ties are less likely to commit suicide in times of financial catastrophe.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. (2009). Facts and figures: National statistics. Retrieved November 2, 2009, from http://www.afsp.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewPage&page_id=050FEA9F-B064-4092-B1135C3A70DE1FDA
Craig, S. (2009, January). Newsweek. Killer economy? The deepening economy may lead to growth in suicide rates. Retrieved November 2, 2009, from http://www.newsweek.com/id/179422
Karasu, B. T. (2009, January). Newsweek. Killer economy? The deepening economy may lead to growth in suicide rates. Retrieved November 2, 2009, from http://www.newsweek.com/id/179422
Macionis, J. J. (2009). Society: The basics. 10th ed. Prentice Hall. Retrieved November 1, 2009, from http://online.vitalsource.com/books/0558302513?page_id=2609468
Stem, L. (2009, January). Newsweek. Killer economy? The deepening economy may lead to growth in suicide rates. Retrieved November 2, 2009, from http://www.newsweek.com/id/179422