Samaritans report: suicide risk and inequality
The Samaritans is a registered charity aimed at providing emotional support to anyone in emotional distress, struggling to cope, or at risk of suicide throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland, often through their telephone helpline
‘Dying from Inequality’, released this week, is the Samaritans’ report into socioeconomic disadvantage and suicidal behaviour.
Produced in conjunction with leading academics, the report sets out how low income and unmanageable debt, unemployment, poor housing, and other socioeconomic factors contribute to high suicide rates in the most disadvantaged communities.
The report makes a number of recommendations for action, and calls on government, businesses, industry and sector leaders to work together so that fewer people die by suicide.
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.
Writing in the Huffington Post, Dominic O’Brien, a policy manager at Samaritans, said that suicide rates had been in gradual decline since the end of the 1980s when the credit crunch began in 2007.
But from 2008, as increases in unemployment, debt, bankruptcies, housing repossessions and the general costs of living impacted across England, suicide rates started rising again.
Many hundreds of additional deaths by suicide have followed, devastating families and friends and communities.
It is clear from the research Dying from Inequality that this has not been merely coincidence.
Individuals experiencing disadvantage during times of economic crisis or uncertainty, most notably men in mid-life, are at increased risk of suicide.
Increasing numbers of people have no long-term security and the opportunites for them to obtain a secure place to live for themselves and their families at some point in the future can seem too limited for many people, O’Brien continued.
That feeling of insecurity can be all pervasive.
Increases in the number of agency workers, people in self-employment and those in short-term/zero hour contracts reflect the flexibility demanded by many parts of today’s labour market and may suit some workers.
But that sort of flexibility does not pay the household bills and day-to-day costs of living that people face, and the absence of a reliable, regular wage can be a constant worry for some.
Changes to tax credits and other benefits can add to this, and for those outside the labour market altogether, re-assessments on benefit entitlements can be a cause of anxiety, particularly when that is someone’s only source of income.
Dying from Inequality is far-reaching, and it highlights clear areas of risk, including the closure and downsizing of businesses, people in manual, low-skilled employment, those facing unmanageable debt and those with poor housing conditions.
Samaritans have already started addressing the problem by making its helpline number free to call, by calling on the government for more frontline staff to be trained in suicide prevention in England and by campaigning for local authorities to have effective suicide prevention plans in place.
In response to the findings of this report, the next steps will involve instigating working groups in different sectors, and bringing together businesses and charities who have influence in the areas highlighted, in order to tackle this issue in a collaborative, systematic and effective way to ensure that fewer people die by suicide.
Samaritans’ CEO, Ruth Sutherland, said: “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.”
“Each suicide statistic is a person,” Sutherland continued. “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.”
Anyone can contact Samaritans. Whatever you’re going through, call – free – any time from any phone on 116 123. This number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill. Or you can email email@example.com, or visit www.samaritans.org to find details of your nearest branch.