Suicide Rates Could Rise

Opinion Category“The sky is falling… the sky is falling!” Well, not exactly… but it certainly might feel like it given current economic circumstances. We are experiencing a financial period that has been likened only to the depression-era of the 1920s and 1930s — but still, a time like no other in history.

As a mental health practitioner, I’ve always been aware of the need to make some type of determination of whether or not clients might be a danger to themselves. There are various warning factors to consider — also considered “red flags” (e.g., feelings of hopelessness, depressed mood, thoughts of suicide, and experience of recent losses, just to name a few).

MoneyGiven the current financial circumstances of many, exactly how many people would meet the criteria for me to start worrying about their safety? People have lost jobs, homes, and their life savings. Many are feeling the secondary, or tertiary, effects of our economy.

Suicide rates overall tend to reveal social problems. Individuals who attempt suicide can and do have multiple reasons for their behavior, but the impact of ecological factors on suicide and self-harm is undeniable. There is a connection between people and their environment. If the environment is in chaos, there is great potential for creating chaos within individuals. Insulating characteristics (social connectedness, for example) can help – but perhaps don’t guarantee safety, depending on the nature of the chaos-producing events.

Yang found that past suicide rates (between 1940 and 1984) did not increase during previous economic booms or busts, but there were social factors that were found as significant variables. Unemployment and divorce each had a relationship with higher suicide rates.

With unemployment on the rise, home foreclosures at an all time-high (and predicted to increase), the financial strains on individuals and families are likely to worsen. All of these factors are a recipe for disaster.

It is likely that the suicide rate will increase, at least over the next year. Although this time period is similar to the early twentieth century depression, it is not identical. The resources we possess make it unique. We cannot predict what or when the outcome will be — but we can be hopeful. In the meantime, let’s try to keep the chaos at a minimum. Be mindful of those who possess crucial warning signs relevant to our time period: unemployment, relationship problems, financial difficulties, housing loss, and substance abuse.

Even if the sky is falling, Chicken Little doesn’t help.


M WRAY, M MILLER, J GURVEY, J CARROLL, I KAWACHI (2008). Leaving Las Vegas: Exposure to Las Vegas and risk of suicide Social Science & Medicine, 67 (11), 1882-1888 DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.09.002

Yang, B. (2006). The economy and suicide. American Journal of Economics and Society, 51, 87-99.

Chadwick Royal, PhD, NCC, LPC, ACS

Chadwick Royal, PhD, NCC, LPC, ACS, is an Assistant Professor of Counselor Education at North Carolina Central University. He is a nationally certified counselor, a licensed professional counselor in North Carolina, and an approved clinical supervisor.
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