Sunday, November 9, 2008

Collateral Damage: Suicide and Economic Recession

Economic recession and depressions are well known to bring about depression and suicidal risks. There are stories of businessmen jumping out of windows following the stock-market crash of 1929.  

Unknown to many, people who commits suicide in the wake of economic recessions and financial crises are not individuals with pre-existing mental illnesses.  They are commonly middle-aged men in the verge of debt and bankruptcy. 

About sixty percent of suicides in 2006 (worldwide) happen in the Asia Pacific region.   In Japan, Sri Lanka, and some parts of China report that more than 20 out of 100,000 citizens kill themselves each year.  More than twice as many in Australia and New Zealand.  

It is also relatively higher in places where it is culturally accepted like in Japan and India.  When several countries in Asia- Pacific were hit by an economic crisis in mid- 1990s, there was a relative increase in the number of suicides among middle-aged men.  This group were said to be the most affected group by the economic recession. 

Aside from economic factors being a reason for suicide, it also has to do something with the Asian values in terms of shame and humiliation not being able to provide for the family.  

In Asian culture, loss of face or shame is take more seriously than it is in Western culture.  In Japan, there are samurais that took their own lives to avoid disgrace after a defeat. They call this tradition hara-kiri. There are some corporate executives who have done the hara-kiri tradition in the eve of an economic decline.  A stretch of forest  in Mount Fuji is called ├Čthe suicide forest├« due to dozens of bodies retrieved from it every year. 

Economic recession has great effects on the youth and children, poverty and financial difficulties have pushed them towards suicide.  In Israel in 2003, a 15 year old killed himself when their electricity has been cut.  In the suicide note, the teen-ager mentioned that he does not want to be a burden for his mother who raised him as a single parent.  

In the Philippines back in 2007, an 11 year old girl ended her life because of poverty.  In her suicide note, she wished that her parents will have a stable job and that her siblings would be able to go to school regularly.  This incident drew attention towards the poverty programs the government has in the country.

Governments and concerned institutions globally are taking steps to address this issue.  

An example would be the steps being undertaken by the Japanese government.  Some new measures are changing work patterns to allow more flexibility and funding early detection and treatment programs.  

The Japanese government are also providing better mental health counselling at the workplace, networks of community psychiatrists and public campaigns to raise the awareness of the problem. Telephone hot line services are also readily available. There is a new software being developed to filter out websites that promote group suicides.  

Australia, in Asia-Pacific, is the first country to initiate the prevention of web based suicide groups.  

Aside from government efforts, there are personal ways you can do to help a suicidal person:

1. A suicidal person is carrying a burden that they can't handle anymore. Listening is important.

2. Be sympathetic, non- judgemental, patient, calm and understanding.

3. Avoid trying to offer quick solutions by belittling the person's feelings.

4. Dealing with a suicide threat is stressful.  Seek assistance o decompress afterwards.

5. If personal efforts fails, don't blame yourself. It is the person's choice. It is wise to ask for grief counselling and suicide survivor support groups. 

Visit Anxiety Checklist for more info on anxiety and stress.

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