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Society: Inequality Drives People To Suicide

Posted by Mark Cantrell on March 10, 2017 at 4:50 PM

Charity report argues inequality is a matter of life and death

Debt, bad housing, low pay and insecure employment, it’s a toxic syndrome pushing people to the brink of suicide, argues a new report from the Samaritans. It presents a direct challenge to a society seemingly relaxed about rising inequality, writes Mark Cantrell


LIFE gets us all down sometimes, but for some of us it can become overwhelming, and it’s those at the bottom of the heap who are likely to have the least resilient support network.


As a new report from the Samaritans puts it, social inequality is driving people to suicide – and something needs to be done about it.


Dying From Inequality, as the report is called, was formally launched today, though the charity made a summary available online ahead of Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Budget on Wednesday. It argues a clear link between inequality and a higher risk of suicide. The full report is available HERE (PDF).


According to the Samaritans, Government, businesses, industry and sector leaders, need to become more aware of the risks of suicide, and take a hand in directing support to those with unstable employment, insecure housing, low incomes, or who otherwise live in areas of socio-economic deprivation.


“Suicide is an inequality issue that we have known about for some time, this report says that’s not right, it’s not fair and it’s got to change,” said Ruth Sutherland, chief executive of the Samaritans.


“Most importantly this report sets out, for the first time, what needs to happen to save lives. Addressing inequality would remove the barriers to help and support where they are needed most and reduce the need for that support in the first place. Government, public services, employers, service providers, communities, family and friends all have a role in making sure help is relevant and accessible when it matters most.”


Dying From Inequality is said to be far-reaching and highlights clear areas of risk to communities and individuals. Areas of risk include the closure and downsizing of businesses, those in manual, low-skilled employment, those facing unmanageable debt, and those with poor housing conditions. They all take a toll, and of course, some people face more than one of these life-diminishing problems.


“Everyone can feel overwhelmed at times in their life,” Sutherland added. “People at risk of suicide may have employers, or they may seek help at job centres, or go to their GP. They may come into contact with national and local government agencies, perhaps on a daily basis. So, in the light of this report we are asking key people and organisations from across society, for example those working in housing, in businesses, medical staff, job centre managers, to all take action to make sure their service, their organisation, their community is doing all it can to promote mental health and prevent the tragedy of suicide.”


Samaritans said it has already started addressing the inequalities driving people to suicide, by making its helpline number free to call, by calling on Government for more frontline staff to be trained in suicide prevention in England and by campaigning for local authorities to have effective suicide prevention plans in place.


But as Sutherland suggested above, more needs to be done – it’s a problem way beyond the resources of single charity. Business, civil society, and government all need to be taking a hand in devising a joined-up strategy to ensure that fewer people die by suicide. The question is, do they have the will?


“Each suicide statistic is a person,” Sutherland said. “The employee on a zero hour’s contract is somebody’s parent or child. A person at risk of losing their home may be a sibling or a friend. And each one of them will leave others devastated, and potentially more disadvantaged too, if they take their own life. This is a call for us as individuals to care more and for organisations that can make a difference, to do so.”


The Pears Foundation funded the research and publication of the report, which was put together by eight commissioned experts. These included: Professor Clare Bambra, Public Health, Newcastle University; Dr Amy Chandler, Sociology, University of Edinburgh; Professor Rory O’Connor, Health Psychology, University of Glasgow; Dr Katherine Smith, Social Policy, University of Edinburgh.


The report was co-edited by Stephen Platt, Emeritus Professor of Health Policy Research, University of Edinburgh; Dr Stephanie Stace, Samaritans; and Jacqui Morrissey, Samaritans.


Anyone can contact Samaritans, whatever they’re going through, the organisation can be called FREE any time from any phone on 116 123. Alternatively visit to find details of the nearest branch.



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