Social Workers Can Reinforce Clients' Coping Skills During Recession Setbacks
Lagging Economy Tied to Rise in Suicides
"We need to reach out more during hard economic times," said
forensic suicidologist Frank Campbell.
By Paul R. Pace, News Staff
|Credit: John Michael Yanson
Several major news stories have shed light on a disturbing
trend: Suicide rates in some regions have spiked and the economic recession is
being cited as a factor.
While national statistics on suicide lag by three to four
years, news sources have conducted their own investigations about the topic.
The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, MSNBC and Business Week have
published stories in the past year highlighting local data and calls for more
support for the newly unemployed or those facing financial devastation.
The Wall Street Journal surveyed 33 of the nation's most
populous states and found 19 have suicide data for 2008. In all, those 19
states reported 15,335 suicides in 2008, up about 2.3 percent from the previous
year. Thirteen states, accounting for 30 percent of the U.S. population, also
reported more suicides in 2008 than the previous year, the story noted.
Suicides by county: Taking a look at statistics on a county
level, a recent investigative report by MSNBC noted spikes in suicides in
certain areas of the Midwest. One example was Elkhart County in Indiana, where
it was noted that before 2009 even came to a close, 22 suicides had been
recorded. That figure outpaced the annual average of 16 self-inflicted deaths.
John White, Elkhart County medical examiner, was quoted as saying more than a
quarter of the cases were attributed to distress caused by job loss or
"We have a real problem," White told MSNBC.
"They left notes specifically stating that the reason they did this was
because of the economy."
The state of Michigan has been devastated by the economic
downturn. It became the first state in 25 years to suffer an unemployment rate
exceeding 15 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In June, the
state's unemployment rate rose to 15.2 percent, the highest of any state since
March 1984. Michigan has been battered by the near collapse of the auto
industry and was among the first states to suffer through the housing crisis
before it became a national trend.
MSNBC examined Michigan's Macomb County, which has around
830,000 residents. From 1979 to 2006, the county saw an average of 81 suicides
each year. The figure jumped to 104 in 2008 and to an alarming 178 in the first
seven months of 2009. The county sheriff's department said it responds nearly daily
to calls about suicide attempts.
Kent County in Michigan has a population of about 605,000 and
reports an average of about 47 suicides each year. In 2006, there were 66
suicides and in the first seven months of 2009, there were already 41
Multiple reasons: Social workers and health professionals
interviewed for this story agree that suicide is a complex area of study.
However, one theory is consistent with experts: It is rare that a single cause
leads people to want to kill themselves.
Social worker Frank Campbell labels himself a forensic
suicidologist. "When it comes to suicide, there is never one factor,"
he said. "If a person lost his job, that is one variable."
If depression or other negative events are brewing in a
person's life at the same time, it can lead to a deep feeling of despair, said
Campbell, past president of the American Association of Suicidology and
executive director of the Crisis Center Foundation based in Baton Rouge, La.
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From February 2010 NASW News. © 2010 National
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