Too many know at the deepest level, the black hopelessness of suicide: its words and feelings. It is the most profound expression of despair that can be enacted by an individual. I have heard the testimonies from people contemplating suicide and from those left behind after suicide; the aptly named survivors. Around six people suicide every day in Australia. Males, outnumber females, [in this sad statistic], by approximately three times as many. The numbers of those effected by a single suicide can be modestly estimated as at least five more for each death. This does not even encompass the toll exacted from suicide attempts and linked depression.
After eleven years working in suicide prevention, and responding to the desperation of those who saw no way out including, those who have tried and been supported to continue to live,I needed out myself. It became too hard to defend the worth of living against the torrent and outpouring of despair
So often I had focused on interconnectedness, the reduction of social isolation and affirmation of the worth of each single life. But this may be only part of the greater picture.
It seems that what governments do, or fail to do, to protect their citizens, does matter.
Studies of suicide rates under conservative governments compared to what I shall term, socially responsible governments, have shown that suicide rates go up under conservative governments.
Not only has this been linked recently in the US to austerity measures but also to Australian and British statistics on suicide. According to an article in the New York Times it's not just the relationship between unemployment and poverty that kills, it's the removal of safety nets .
Suicide rates in Greece soared under austerity, rising by eighteen per cent in 2010 to twenty five per cent higher in 2011. Cost cutting sackings,and pension losses, are sited as causal.
Researchers David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu report that:
Iceland avoided a public health disaster even though it experienced, in 2008, the largest banking crisis in history, relative to the size of its economy. After three main commercial banks failed, total debt soared, unemployment increased ninefold, and the value of its currency, the krona, collapsed.
Iceland opted to not implement austerity measures, instead to slowly pay off the debt. Its suicide rate did not increase.
At the time that I was working at Lifeline Melbourne, both conservative governments, in Victoria under Premier Jeff Kennett and Federally under Prime Minister John Howard bequeathed funding for suicide prevention programs. Incidentally, the Kennet program for youth suicide prevention, was axed by the next conservative government of Ted Baillieu. But the original funding,by wiser conservatives may have been in response to the increase in suicide rates in the late 1990's. Or perhaps to an awareness of the rumoured 'curse of conservatism' that spikes the suicide rates?
So why might this be happening under a conservative government and less so under non conservative governments. As someone who worked for years in the not for profit sector and health industry, I recall the expectant angst of cuts in relation to welfare health and support services. These were dreaded, with the change to a conservative government Invariably the cuts came, with the cries of justification and of saving the economy. The tough measures were mostly directed at the poor and powerless, and at hapless public servants
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