Another study, published by the British Journal of Psychiatry [paywall], has confirmed that “there has been a substantial rise in ‘economic suicides’ in the Great Recessions afflicting Europe and North America.”*
What the authors found is that, suicide rates either increased (for most countries in Europe, where suicide rates had been falling, and Canada, where rates had been stable) or accelerated (for the United States and Poland, where suicide rates had already been rising) after the onset of the latest economic crisis. Their conclusion is that “there have been at least 10 000 more economic suicides than would have been expected in the European Union, Canada and the USA since the Great Recession began in 2007.”
Since “economic suicides” are preventable, the authors offer three options that “may increase mental health resilience during economic shocks”: access to secondary prevention, active labor market programs, and greater gender equality in the workplace. Their view is that “Recessions will continue to hurt, but need not cause self-harm.”
In my view, we can go one step further, by recognizing that the economic conditions that lead to “economic suicides” are themselves preventable. So, in addition to what the authors suggest, we need to consider creating alternative economic institutions—ways of organizing the economic system that make sure people are not forced to pay (because of unemployment, indebtedness, and so on) the ultimate price of severe downturns in economic activity and that undo the causes (including the way corporations are organized and macroeconomic policy formulated) of recessions and depressions in the first place.
*I discuss an earlier study, published by Lancet, here.