NEWS

Samaritans' 'Dying From Inequality' Report Reveals Poorer People More Likely To Take Own Life

Inequality has been linked with a higher risk of suicide.

06/03/2017 13:39 | Updated 06 March 2017

Poorer people are more likely to take their own life, campaigners have warned ahead of Wednesday’s Budget.

In a report released by the Samaritans on Monday, inequality has been linked with a higher risk of suicide.

As a result the charity is calling on the government, businesses, industry and sector leaders to be aware of the risks of suicide and to direct support to those with unstable employment, insecure housing, low income or in areas of socioeconomic deprivation.

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Poorer people are more likely to take their own life, campaigners have warned (stock image)

”Individuals experiencing disadvantage during times of economic crisis or uncertainty, most notably men in mid-life, are at increased risk of suicide,” Dominic O’Brien, policy manager at the Samaritans wrote in a blog hosted on the Huffington Post UK.

Ruth Sutherland, Samaritans CEO, said: “Each suicide statistic is a person. The employee on a zero hour’s 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.”

Key findings: 

  • Suicide risk increases during periods of economic recession.
  • 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.
  • There is a strong association between area-level deprivation and suicidal behaviour. Suicide rates are two to three times higher in the most deprived neighbourhoods compared to the most affluent.
  • Admissions to hospital following self-harm are two times higher in the most deprived neighbourhoods compared to the most affluent.
  • Multiple and large employer closures resulting in unemployment can increase stress in a local community, break down social connections and increase feelings of hopelessness and depression.
  • The risk of suicidal behaviour is increased among those experiencing job insecurity and downsizing or those engaged in non-traditional work situations, such as part-time, irregular and short-term contracts with various employers.
  • In the UK, socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals are less likely to seek help for mental health problems than the more affluent, and are less likely to be referred to specialist mental health services following self-harm by GPs located in deprived areas.

The Dying from Inequality report highlights areas of risk to communities and individuals, including the closure and downsizing of businesses, those in manual, low-skilled employment, those facing unmanageable debt and those with poor housing conditions.

Sutherland continued: “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.

“Everyone can feel overwhelmed at times in their life. People at risk of suicide may have employers, or they may seek help at job centres, or go to their GP.

“They may come into contact with national and local government agencies, perhaps on a daily basis.

“So, in the light of this report we are asking key people and organisations from across society, for example those working in housing, in businesses, medical staff, job centre managers, to all take action to make sure their service, their organisation, their community is doing all it can to promote mental health and prevent the tragedy of suicide.”

Samaritans said it has begun to address the inequalities driving people to take their own lives by making its helpline number free to call.

The charity is also calling on the government for more frontline staff to be trained in suicide prevention in England and is campaigning for local authorities to have effective suicide prevention plans in place.

Useful websites and helplines:
  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
  • Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: help@getconnected.org.uk
  • HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41
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