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File photo of Dublin construction workers at the Port Tunnel in 2006 Photo by: TheJournal.ie

Ireland sees a major increase in suicides "by economic crisis"

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File photo of Dublin construction workers at the Port Tunnel in 2006 Photo by: TheJournal.ie

The suicide rate in Ireland jumped 16 percent between 2007 and 2009 as the economic crisis hit.

The New York Times reports that suicides that have increased in Europe, especially in countries such as Ireland, Greece, and Italy, where economic struggles have become a fact of life over the past few years.

“Suicide by economic crisis” is the phrase being attached to the recent rise in European suicides. Small-business owners and entrepreneurs are among those in the increased rates of suicide.

The New York Times reports that, “In Ireland, the phenomenon has been linked to what some therapists call Celtic Tiger depression, the period after 2008 characterized by an influx of middle-aged male patients who complained about sleeplessness and a lack of appetite in the aftermath of that nation’s destructive boom-and-bust real estate market.”

Ella Arensman, director of research at the National Suicide Research Foundation said that a study in Cork reached out to people who had lost relatives to suicide. The study found that “The victims were predominantly men, with an average age of 36. Almost 40 percent were unemployed, and 32 percent worked in construction as plumbers, electricians and plasterers.”

She added that generally, those who took their own lives “suffered from a constellation of problems: financial struggles, unemployment, broken relationships and loneliness.”

While some opt to take their own life in relative privacy, others choose to make a political statement of it. April 4 saw a 77 year old retiree shoot himself outside of the Greek Parliament, a clear message of the highly vulnerable economic state the country is in.

“A complete picture of the phenomenon across Europe is elusive, as some countries lag in reporting statistics and coroners are loath to classify deaths as suicides, to protect surviving family members.”In Ireland, this is a particular problem as the stigma of suicide is still thriving and there lacks standardized reporting procedure for death by suicide.

From 2007 to 2009, suicides among men skyrocketed more than 16 percent in Ireland. Greece and Italy also showed heightened rates of suicide during the same time period.

Researchers, though admitting that suicide undoubtedly arises from an array of different factors, have placed a significant connection between the economic downturn and the rise of suicides in Europe.

“Financial crisis puts the lives of ordinary people at risk, but much more dangerous is when there are radical cuts to social protection,” said David Stuckler, a sociologist at the University of Cambridge, who led a study published in The Lancet that found a sharp rise in suicides across Europe in countries now characterized by their economic downturn. The rise in suicide coincided with the countries’ economic hardships.

“Austerity can turn a crisis into an epidemic,” Stuckler added.

George Mordaunt, 44, remembers considering suicide after financial hardship struck at the end of the Celtic Tiger era in Ireland. Mordaunt worked hard to expand his family-owned car dealership in Clonmel for close to thirty years. Like so many, the business flourished during the Celtic Tiger, and failed following the 2008 downturn.

Mordaunt recalls seriously contemplating suicide after meeting with a banker when he wasn’t able to repay his loans. “Save the sob story,” Mordaunt recalls the banker telling him. “We want our money. If that means taking your family home, we’ll do it.”

“How many people are on the verge of losing everything?” posits Mordaunt. “Everyone in Ireland must become active in our rescue.”

Mordaunt went on to found Insight, which offers people advice regarding negotiating bank debt.

The issue of suicide in Ireland is being brought to the forefront. Posters offering help line public spaces in Ireland, while many Irish celebrities are speaking out on the matter.

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