Is Job Loss Leading to Suicides?

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on December 16, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

As we noted in our post on the Florida school board shooting which ended in the death of gunman Clay Duke, his despair over a family job loss and the economic stress he was under lead him to commit a desperate and criminal act. And Duke is not alone. Just days ago, the Mayor of Springfield, Illinois, Tim Davlin, apparently committed suicide rather than face the repercussions from possible accusations of mismanagement of an estate he was overseeing and a federal tax bill of over $90,000. These are tragic individual stories, but do they point to a larger trend?

Suicides historically rise in tough economic times, confirms The Christian Science Monitor. Since the start of the Great Recession, the rate of suicides in the workplace, for example, has increased from 196 in 2007, to 263 in 2008, according to numbers reported by the National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. The number of workplace suicides dropped back down slightly in 2009.

The jobless recovery from the recession has led many to believe there is no end in sight for their economic stress, which increases the feeling of hopelessness that can lead to suicide. "What is happening in the economy now is there is the pervasive sense there is no end in sight. We hear stories of good, qualified people out of work more than a year ... and that perception can aggravate the hopelessness and helplessness of people," Nancy Zarse, an associate professor of clinical forensic psychology at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, told The Monitor. Suicides have long been linked to not just to job loss, but to home loss, or even credit problems.

What can people do to combat the risks of suicide and workplace suicide or violence? To help yourself and others, realize you are not alone and that most crises (including economic ones) are temporary, reports The Monitor. Get help from health professionals, or if your loss of health benefits is another worry, from a free hotline or family and friends. The American Association of Suicidology cites studies involving Holocaust survivors to show that living through intense and difficult situations can actually strengthen family ties and personal beliefs.

In the workplace, if you are stressed by a potential job loss, do what you can to make sure your employer gives you what you are legally entitled to in terms of severance pay and benefits. If you question the legality of your dismissal, research the law on sex or age discrimination or talk to an attorney if you need one. Taking control of your situation in even a small way can help lessen the feeling of hopelessness that could lead to a desperate act. Remember Clay Duke and Tim Davlin and take comfort where you can, and then give it back as well.

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