Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Collateral Damage: Suicide and Economic Recession (part 1 of 2)


Economic recession and depressions are well known to bring about depression and suicidal risks. There are stories of businessmen jumping out of windows following the stock-market crash of 1929.

Unknown to many, people who commits suicide in the wake of economic recessions and financial crises are not individuals with pre-existing mental illnesses.  They are commonly middle-aged men in the verge of debt and bankruptcy.

About sixty percent of suicides in 2006 (worldwide) happen in the Asia Pacific region.   In Japan, Sri Lanka, and some parts of China report that more than 20 out of 100,000 citizens kill themselves each year.  More than twice as many in Australia and New Zealand.

It is also relatively higher in places where it is culturally accepted like in Japan and India.  When several countries in Asia- Pacific were hit by an economic crisis in mid- 1990s, there was a relative increase in the number of suicides among middle-aged men.  This group were said to be the most affected group by the economic recession.

Aside from economic factors being a reason for suicide, it also has to do something with the Asian values in terms of shame and humiliation not being able to provide for the family.

In Asian culture, loss of face or shame is take more seriously than it is in Western culture.  In Japan, there are samurais that took their own lives to avoid disgrace after a defeat. They call this tradition hara-kiri. There are some corporate executives who have done the hara-kiri tradition in the eve of an economic decline.  A stretch of forest  in Mount Fuji is called “the suicide forest” due to dozens of bodies retrieved from it every year.

Economic recession has great effects on the youth and children, poverty and financial difficulties have pushed them towards suicide.  In Israel in 2003, a 15 year old killed himself when their electricity has been cut.  In the suicide note, the teen-ager mentioned that he does not want to be a burden for his mother who raised him as a single parent.

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