It is almost common sense that loss of a job or prolonged unemployment has a negative affect on mental health, leading in some cased to suicide. But how many deaths by suicide are actually caused by unemployment? According to a new study published in Lancet Psychiatry, unemployment caused approximately 45,000 suicides each year between 2000 and 2011. Through a longitudinal assessment of the World Health Organization’s mortality database and the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook database, it was discovered that these rates remained consistent regardless of economic stability.
The study was conducted in 63 countries in four world regions. One of the goals of the study was to see if there was a difference in the impact of unemployment on suicide rates before and after a recession. Using statistical analysis, the researchers deduced that unemployment was the cause of 41,148 suicides in 2007 and 46,131 in 2009. Therefore, they reasoned that the recession in 2008 caused 4,983 additional suicides.
Additionally, it was found that suicide rates increase six months before unemployment rates rise, which indicates the complexity of the process of job loss: unemployment often begins as underemployment, wage theft and abuse on the job.
Suicide intervention is not enough
Carlos Nordt, a leading researcher who conducted the study, said that the implications of this study are that suicide intervention resources need to be made more available during times of high unemployment. “Besides specific therapeutic interventions,” Nordt adds, “sufficient investment by governments in active labor market policies that enhance the efficiency of labor markets could help generate additional jobs and reduce the unemployment rate, helping to offset the impact on suicide.”
For a researcher involved in making such an important discovery, Nordt’s proposed solution could not be further from the mark. Suicide intervention and other mental health resources, while crucial, are only band-aids on a deeper problem.
As for Nordt’s trickle-down solution for the deeper problem, that theory has been debunked time and again. Propping up wealthy capitalists in hopes of making jobs and higher wages a possibility for workers simply does not work. When another study laid the change in unemployment rate against the top tax rate from 1954 to 2002, the four largest decreases in unemployment were observed to have occurred when the top marginal tax rate was 91 percent.
Workers know from experience that giving tax cuts, bailouts and support to so-called “job creators” does nothing but line the pockets of those bosses. It does not by any means incentivize bosses to somehow develop morality and give more to their workers: if anything, the statistics show that it does the opposite.
The solution: end capitalism
Capitalism promotes the idea that the owners of capital are infallible, their interests come first and anyone struggling in life only has themselves to blame for it. It is not set up to value working and oppressed people’s lives. The success of the tiny few that benefit from capitalism is ensured by the uncertainty of survival for the majority. Products of that mandatory disenfranchisement are both high unemployment rates and an incompetent mental health system that does not serve oppressed people.
When the average person calls most lifelines, they are usually not given resources to help them resolve the issues they have. They are listened to and told to feel better. If they mention that they are thinking about harming themselves, police are called. Police are not trained to treat mentally ill people—particularly marginalized communities—with respect. There are several occasions on which someone intending to kill themselves were killed by a cop for having a weapon.
Despite efforts made by communities to create support networks of their own (such as the free Trans Lifeline, run by and for trans people with a strict no-police-involvement policy), no helpline or therapeutic resource can solve the underlying economic issues plaguing workers. In order for mental health resources to be truly effective, we need to cut out the cancer of capitalism.
It has been proven that the only thing that “inspires” bosses to treat workers adequately is organized fightback by workers. It has also been proven that the only path to a real system that guarantees employment, education, health care and basic resources for all is by overthrowing capitalism.