I am again featuring Julia Merrill as guest blogger. Julia has been publishing tips and comments on how the signs, symptoms and consequences of traumatic brain injury affects peoples lives. This week she looks at how unemployment, a consequence of traumatic brain injury, can lead to suicide.
Why Your Unemployment Status Could Increase Your Suicide Risk
By Julia Merrill
Being unemployed is a stressful time that can lead to a host of personal, financial, and societal issues. Recent studies have shown that unemployment may increase your risk of suicide.
When meeting someone new, they will never fail to ask what you do for a living. Our jobs have become such an integral part of our identity that it is one of the first things people use to judge our character. When a person is unemployed, not only can it seem like they have lost their sense of self, it can also lead to a personal financial crisis, amongst a variety of other issues.
In these uncertain economic times, the lack of available jobs can only make things worse. With the stress that comes from unemployment, some people find it hard to believe that things will ever get better, as such, many turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, including suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
How Unemployment Status and Suicide Correlate
Across the world, approximately 1 in 5 suicides are related to unemployment. Rates of suicide caused by unemployment are even higher than those caused by difficult economic times. In fact, researchers found that suicide rates tend to rise in conjunction with unemployment rates.
Unemployment can lead to a variety of issues, including:
- Financial crisis;
- Lack of health insurance;
- Loss of meaningful work;
- Loss of personal identity;
- Social withdrawal;
- Dependence upon or self-medicating with drugs or alcohol;
- Frustration and anger at the lack of available jobs;
- Sadness or irritation when applying for jobs; or
- Confusion or uncertainty about the future.
All of these issues can lead to feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, isolation, and helplessness. Notably, these are all symptoms of an underlying mental health issue, such as depression. The negative mental state associated with depression can lead to thoughts of self-harm or actual suicide attempts.
Anyone who has ever applied for jobs can begin to understand the feelings of futility associated with unemployment. And it can be even more frustrating for those with disabilities who may not be able to meet certain requirements, cutting their potential job options dramatically. When unemployment begins to negatively affect your life (i.e. getting behind on bills, turning to drugs or alcohol for relief, or withdrawing oneself from friends and family), it can increase the risk of suicide attempts. This risk can be especially high when:
- There is an underlying mental health issue;
- The person suffers from other physical health issues;
- There are substance abuse issues;
- The unemployed individual has made previous suicide attempts; or
- The individual is experiencing other major life stressors (such as a breakup of a relationship).
What Can Be Done to Prevent Suicide Caused by Unemployment
Though the correlation is strong, there are steps that can be taken to prevent these serious repercussions associated with unemployment. Governments and state or local officials can aid in this process by:
- Creating and implementing a plan to increase employment opportunities;
- Making access to mental health services more easily accessible;
- Stronger laws and more emphasis on creating an accessible work environment;
- Incentives for employers who hire workers with disabilities;
- Providing additional resources and support for unemployed individuals;
- Offering additional benefits to those who are unable to find work; or
- Making it easier and more affordable to access health insurance benefits while unemployed.
As a friend, family member, or loved one of someone experiencing unemployment, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of depression. These include:
- Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or helplessness;
- Social withdrawal;
- Changes in sleeping or eating patterns;
- Loss of interest in favorite activities; or
- Fatigue or lethargy.
It is also important to know the warning signs of a potential suicide attempt, including:
- Distribution of personal belongings;
- Access to means of suicide (such as weapons);
- Talking about death or suicide;
- Acting impulsively;
- Outward aggression or irritability; or
- Increased use or abuse of drugs and alcohol.
If your loved one is displaying any of these signs or symptoms, reach out and offer help. Encourage your loved one set up an appointment with a medical or mental health professional. If the person is in imminent danger, however, call 911 immediately. Please reach out for more information on the risk of suicide among the unemployed population.
Julia Merrill, is a retired nurse, who aims to provide tips on finding the right medical care, health insurance, etc. Her mission is to close the gap between medical providers and their patients.