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Monday, 06 March 2017

Strong link of suicidal behaviour to socio-economic disadvantage, say Samaritans

Written by Catherine Wylie

There is overwhelming evidence of a strong link between socio-economic disadvantage and suicidal behaviour, according to a report.

The Dying from Inequality report from Samaritans found that areas of higher socio-economic deprivation tend to have higher rates of suicide.

The charity is calling on people across society - such as those working in housing or in businesses - to make sure their organisation is doing all it can to promote mental health and prevent suicide.

Suicide risk increases during periods of economic recession, particularly when recessions are associated with a steep rise in unemployment, and this risk remains high when crises end, especially for individuals whose economic circumstances do not improve, the report said.

It added that countries with higher levels of per capita spending on active labour market programmes, and which have more generous unemployment benefits, experience lower recession-related rises in suicides.

During the most recent recession - 2008-09 - there was a 0.54% increase in suicides for every 1% increase in indebtedness across 20 EU countries, including the UK and Ireland.

Social and employment protection for the most vulnerable in society, and labour market programmes to help unemployed people find work, can reduce suicidal behaviour, but programmes must be meaningful to participants and felt to be non-stigmatising, the report said.

The report also found that men are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of economic recession, including suicide risk, than women, and people who are unemployed are two to three times more likely to die by suicide than those in employment.

The least skilled occupations (construction workers, for example) have higher rates of suicide, while a low level of educational attainment and no home ownership increase an individual's risk of suicide.

The report said: "There is now overwhelming evidence of a strong link between socio-economic disadvantage and suicidal behaviour.

"What has been missing is a deep understanding of the nature of this association, how it might be explained, and a consideration of the implications for policy and practice (ie, what needs to be done)."

Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland said: "Suicide is an inequality issue that we have known about for some time.

"This report says that's not right, it's not fair and it's got to change. Most importantly, this report sets out, for the first time, what needs to happen to save lives.

"Addressing inequality would remove the barriers to help and support where they are needed most and reduce the need for that support in the first place.

"Government, public services, employers, service providers, communities, family and friends all have a role in making sure help is relevant and accessible when it matters most.

She added: "Each suicide statistic is a person. The employee on a zero hours contract is somebody's parent or child.

"A person at risk of losing their home may be a sibling or a friend.

"And each one of them will leave others devastated, and potentially more disadvantaged too, if they take their own life.

"This is a call for us as individuals to care more and for organisations that can make a difference, to do so."

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