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UNEMPLOYMENT / JUN. 24, 2014
version 13, draft 13

Unemployment Benefits Help Reduce Suicides

A new study shows that unemployment benefits may actually reduce the suicide rates in people who are out of a job. For years, researchers have been aware of the link between high unemployment rates and high suicide rates. The new study provides promising evidence of a possible solution to the problem: more benefits. 

The Advantage of Unemployment Benefits

Traditionally, suicide rates have paralleled the economy. The rates go up as the economy goes down. This is a simplified way of looking at a very complex issue, of course. There is much more to suicide, or any self-inflicted harm, than economic depression. Everyone who loses a job, or remains unemployed for an extended period of time, will not commit suicide. Usually there are many contributing factors to suicide.

There is a link, and science has proved that time and again. Another study shows that the Great Recession could be responsible for around 10,000 suicides in Europe and North America alone. In other studies, unemployment has also been linked to worse physical and mental health.

A recent study in the American Journal of Epidemiology shows the connection between high unemployment benefits and decreased suicide rates. In studying unemployment benefits in the United States from 1968 to 2008, researchers found that higher benefits led to lower suicide rates. These results suggest that income loss, not job loss, has a bigger impact on potentially suicidal individuals. 

Unemployment benefits are not designed to prevent suicides, but the steady flow of income in a time of uncertainty can potentially mitigate the risk. Such benefits were greatly extended during the Great Recession, though many states allowed the extensions to expire in December 2013.

Benefits aren’t always available, but there are other ways to prevent suicide and to find help in times of emotional trouble.

Getting Out of Harm’s Way

Sadness has a way of appearing suddenly, and it can be an incredibly heavy burden. Losing a job or being uncertain about income can cause great sadness, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed by that feeling. Even if you don’t think you feel suicidal, consider finding ways to avoid sadness while you’re facing unemployment. There are many ways to keep yourself safe and prevent a potential suicide. Even if you don’t feel that you’re at risk, it can’t hurt to try and keep yourself out of harm’s way.

  • Intoxication: Drugs and alcohol can make sadness and suicidal thoughts stronger. A short burst of optimism is often followed by a much bigger crash.
  • Reach out: There are many different options for support if you’re feeling sad, anxious or emotionally distressed. Online chat rooms offer support 24 hours a day. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at any time. Reach it at 1-800-273-TALK. The National Hopeline Network is available at 1-800-SUICIDE. Be honest and specific about your feelings. The more open you are, the more others will be able to assist you.
  • Health: Take good care of yourself physically. Get plenty to eat, get plenty of sleep and engage in regular physical activity. Good physical health can lead to better mental health.

Unemployment can cause a lot of pain, and pain can be very difficult to shoulder. But no matter how frightening it gets, you’re not alone. Find ways to reach out, mitigate the damage and wait for bluer skies tomorrow.

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