The nation’s stubbornly high unemployment rate during the recent recession is more than a sign of the economy in a tailspin. It is also linked to a state of mind that is reflected in the rate of suicide in the nation, according to mental health professionals.
Annie Lowrey, a financial correspondent for The Washington Independent, has been working on a series of stories on the unemployed in America and her latest story paints a grim picture of how nationwide joblessness is taking its toll on the psyche of U.S. citizens.
In the story, Lowrey cites the online forum, Unemployed-Friends, where unemployed citizens network and discuss how they live in tough circumstances. She quotes one member of the forum, who sent out a cry for help.
“I also have become homeless and am on the verge of suicide. I slept out in the wood last night and didn’t get very much sleep,” the man wrote. “I hate to bring you people down with my problems but I thought you would like to know this. I don’t know what else to say except I’m very sorry it turned out like this but I cannot take the strain of living like this very much longer.” His post ended with a pledge to try to “tough out another night.”
A 2008 report by The Wall Street Journal found that 19 states showed a 2.3 percent rise in suicides from the previous year, when the recession was just beginning.
According to AOL News, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline reported an 18 percent increase in calls from January to May this year. During the recession, the organization said it saw the calls rise from 13,424 calls in January 2007 to 59,500 in May 2010.
While there’s no definitive way to link the rise in unemployment to the rise in suicides, many experts feel it’s the only logical explanation.
“There‘s a clear and direct relationship between unemployment and suicides,” said, Donna Holland Barnes, Howard University psychiatry professor and co-founder and president of the National Organization for People of Color against Suicide. “We lost more people in 2007 then we’d lost in 20 years and that coincides with the downturn of the economy.”
Barnes said as a real link becomes clear, and with the economy not turning around anytime soon, people have to be more vigilant.
“We can be alert to our family members, our neighbors, our friends and our community,” she said. “We have to look for help for someone in a suicidal crisis and try to get them the help that they need.”