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Report Ties Financial Crisis to Compromised Mental Health

PHOTO: As the Great Recession led to unemployment, foreclosures and other financial difficulties, research indicates another result could be an increase in suicides among people ages 40 to 64. Photo credit: Kenn W. Kiser/Morguefile.
PHOTO: As the Great Recession led to unemployment, foreclosures and other financial difficulties, research indicates another result could be an increase in suicides among people ages 40 to 64. Photo credit: Kenn W. Kiser/Morguefile.
March 13, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio - There's been a significant increase in suicides among middle-aged and older adults, and it appears a portion of the rise can be attributed to the effects of the Great Recession.

A new study shows that suicide rates in the United States for people ages 40 to 64 rose sharply from 2007 to 2010, and external economic factors often were present. Dr. Jill Harkavy-Friedman, vice president for research at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said their struggles included home foreclosure and job loss.

"During the Great Recession, lots of people were losing their jobs; most of them did not take their lives," she said. "Some of those people may have been experiencing the financial stress and, as a result, their mental health was compromised in some way."

Nationally, the number of people who die by suicide is now more than 40,000 per year, including more than 1,300 in Ohio, with men about four times as likely as women to take their own lives.

Harkavy-Friedman said the report found that women are more likely to report mental-health problems and seek treatment, while men are more likely to suffer from alcohol and substance-abuse problems.

"This says that perhaps men experience mental-health problems in different ways," she said. "They may be less likely to seek treatment when they're having difficulties, and often they wait 'til things are much more severe before getting help."

She said the vast majority of those who die by suicide either have substance-abuse problems or underlying mental-health issues, such as untreated depression. She pointed to simple signs that could indicate you or someone you love may be experiencing a mental-health condition of concern.

"Not acting like your normal self - agitation, withdrawal, not taking care of your hygiene, and hopelessness," she said. "So, if you see those factors, then it's a good idea to get a mental-health checkup, and check in with somebody."

Anyone who needs help can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

The study is online at ajpmonline.org. Ohio suicide data is at ohiospf.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH