SPA CEO on the impact of recession on suicide rates

8 August 2014

Yesterday I read with interest a recent study on the impact of the 2007 recession in Australia on suicide rates.

It is no surprise that suicide is higher among economically inactive and unemployed persons than employed persons. This paper looked at the differences in this relationship by sex and age, as well as changes in suicide among employed, unemployed and economically inactive persons during the recession of 2007–09.

Again, unsurprisingly, the results of the study suggest a need for adequate policy and social welfare responses in place to mitigate the effects of the economic recession on the working age population. Particularly, it states that these should target unemployed and economically inactive men and women in Australia, who may be at higher risk of suicide than previously thought.

At the National Suicide Prevention Conference this year, we touched on the impact of the economy and the role this and employment performance plays in our country/communities in relation to suicide prevention. We should be learning from studies like this on the recession and embedding more protective programs and policies, helping to build resilience through times of economic change.

A member of my team asked me this morning whether we are in a recession, coming out of a recession or about to fall into a recession…it reminded me of that saying, “the only constant in life is change.” This is increasingly true when it comes to our economic and employment climate. We need to align our support mechanisms and systems to build resilience and wellbeing rather than focus on the moments of crisis. Yes, of course, we need to have robust systems in place support those in crisis but, as this study suggests, aligning our policies and social welfare programs to support those currently unemployed and economically inactive men and women in Australia, can only benefit us all through times of economic flux.

Study abstract - Economically inactive, unemployed and employed suicides in Australia by age and sex over a 10-year period: what was the impact of the 2007 economic recession?

Sue Murray, Suicide Prevention Australia CEO