‘Economic Suicides’ Shake Europe as Financial Crisis Takes Toll on Mental Health”

Kermit Cole
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The Washington Post writes today that “So many people have been killing themselves and leaving behind notes citing financial hardship that European media outlets have a special name for them: “economic suicides.” Surveys are also showing increasing signs of mental stress: a jump in the use of antidepressants and illicit drugs, a rise in depression and anxiety among workers worried about salary cuts or being laid off, and an increase in the use of sick leave due to psychological problems.

“People are more and more uncertain about their future, which is leading to a sharp rise in mental health problems,” said Maria Nyman, director of Brussels-based Mental Health Europe, a multinational coalition of mental health organizations and educational institutions.

“In recent years, researchers in the United States and elsewhere have repeatedly identified a correlation between suicides and unemployment or other economic distress. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last year that suicides increased during periods of economic stress, including the Great Depression, the oil crisis of the 1970s and the double-dip recession of the 1980s. Other studies have estimated that people with employment difficulties are two to three times as likely to commit suicide than the population as whole.

“As the financial crisis in Europe enters its third year, medical experts, public health groups and trade unions are warning that mental health problems are reaching a crisis point and that the situation is going to get worse as austerity measures enacted in the past few years take effect.”

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected]

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