Sunday, September 5, 2010

Suicides after the Crisis

In close relation to the post “What kills you after an Economic Collapse” is the issue of suicide, which I thought desered a sepparate post.
Suicide had already gone up 60% through the nineties and up until 2001 before the economy finally collapsed. It went up 30% from 2000 to 2001 alone, so the link between suicides and harsh economic times is no mystery. From 1998 to 2008, suicide in Argentina has gone up 102%.
In average, 8 people commit suicide in Argentina per day, 50% of them young people, between 14-24 years old. While this is still around the international average and far from the higher rates of suicide often found in countries with excellent quality of life, its still noticeable. People kill themselves for different reasons, and poor socioeconomic conditions is one of them. Argentina has the highest suicide rate among young people in Latin America.

But lets not only look at Argentina alone, its not the center of the world after all, how about other countries? In Greece, suicides have DOUBLED since the crisis started and in Spain for every 1% increase of unemployment there’s a 0.8% increase in suicide.
I have mentioned before that around here suicide had become so common, it actually bothered me when I went to work taking the train, and someone decided to throw himself under the train at 8 am in the morning, a desperate way to get someone to notice the poor person in his final moments.

Where and Why

What surprised me the most is that Buenos Aires, where most of the population concentrates, is not where most of the suicides (per 100.000 inhabitants ) is taking place. Often it’s the poorest provinces.
Santa Cruz, Catamarca and Salta dispute the top of the list every year.
In Salta for example, suicides have gone up 328% since 1997, mostly young people 15 to 19 years old. Recently I’ve seen it mention on the news and its alarming to see kids from school just chocking themselves to death, sometimes filming it with their cellphones.
Now, Salta is a small province, its capital city where most of its population concentrates barely has 464,678. A wave of suicides took place in the town of Rosario de la Frontera, with just 24.000 inhabitants, where five teenagers between 13 and 14 years old killed themselves in only 3 months.

I find this to be surprising, given that we’re supposed to believe that after an economic collapse, small town lifestyle is supposed to be healthier both mentally and physically for both children and adults. Yet it is in these smaller and often poorer provinces and towns where suicide has peaked, often following unemployment.
According to several reports it seems that its not unemployment directly the reason why teens and young adults kill themselves, but rather the lack of hope in a better future. The difference seems to be subtle but its important to notice it since these poor towns are already used to poverty and hardships. Seems that not seeing light and the end of the tunnel, so to speak, is what pushes these people over the edge.

Another factor seems to be contagious suicide. This is something that experts believe to be possible, specially among teens. I don’t know if contagious is the right word (maybe its more about imitation) but there’s definitely something along that line. When Marilyn Monroe killed herself in 1962, suicide in USA went up 12%. Suicide rates increase when someone famous kills himself and the media pays particular attention to it. In small towns, people usually know each other better and its not unrealistic to expect a “celebrity” reaction when someone that is well known by the inhabitants kills himself, or when the local media deal with the news.
Its interesting to notice theses things, pay attention to them if a family member has a tendency towards depression. Be ready for it and specially discuss it in the family if your community sees something like this going on.

Take care folks,



Julia said...

"but rather the lack of hope in a better future"

Does religion give hope in these areas? Of course, the suicide of youths is terrible because that is frequently a time of drifting from the Church.

Anonymous said...

The most recent statistics I could find (2004) ranks Michigan, USA as #36 in the United States with 10.9 per 100,000. 2004 was the last year that the economy was strong here. I would guess the rate as much higher now, especially if one were to take in account "accidental" deaths caused by risky behavior. I know arson is much higher now.
Eric in MI

Anonymous said...

Good article on why over 200,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide over economic reasons since 1997. Monsanto is up to the same shenanigans here in the USA.

Also, watch the amazing documentary by the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia's widow; "The Future of Food".




Anonymous said...

I'm guessing the numbers of young deciding to commit suicide is not having hope of a future they want. I think much would happen if (when?) the U.S. has a similar situation.

Our youth are SO SPOILED - they do not have any experience with recessions and the effects of them. So used to Good Times Always - they will have a revelation when they find out the mall is closed for good.