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Home > Dying from inequality: socioeconomic disadvantage and suicidal behaviour. Summary report.

Samaritans. (2017) Dying from inequality: socioeconomic disadvantage and suicidal behaviour. Summary report. London: Samaritans.

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This report reviews literature on recent and ongoing economic shocks in the UK, Ireland and other countries, considering the impact of economic recession and periods of economic uncertainty on suicidal behaviour.This report also reviews accounts from people who have self-harmed (with differing levels of suicidal intent) or died by suicide (information based on suicide notes or coroners’ hearings). They constitute a diverse group, including both the less advantaged (eg, drug-dependent, incarcerated, homeless, living in poor housing, in poor urban and rural areas) and the more advantaged (eg, college students, school attendees, ‘high achievers’, and those who are employed).

Presented below are four thematic understandings of suicidal behaviour relating to socioeconomic disadvantage:
• as an outcome of factors arising due to disadvantage, typically early trauma and loss, but also including experiences of homelessness, poor housing, unemployment, job loss and financial crises
• as a response to shame, associated with relationship breakdown, economic insecurity, job loss, and unemployment
• as a way of ‘coping’ with distress, anger, difficult situations (including those related to money or housing), and relationship problems
• as a method of enacting control over the self or body, often when an individual feels powerless.

• Individuals, communities and wider society can all play a part in reducing the risk of suicidal behaviour. Governments need to take a lead by placing a stronger emphasis on suicide prevention as an inequality issue.
• National suicide prevention strategies need to target efforts towards the most vulnerable people and places, in order to reduce geographical inequalities in suicide.
• Effective cross-governmental approaches are required, with mental health services improved and protected. Suicide prevention needs to be a government priority in welfare, education, housing and employment policies.
• Workplaces should have in place a suicide prevention plan, and provide better psychological support to all employees, especially those experiencing job insecurity or those affected by downsizing.
• Poverty and debt need to be destigmatised so that individuals feel valued and able to access support without fear of being judged.
• Every local area should have a suicide prevention plan in place. This should include the development and maintenance of services that provide support to individuals experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage.
• Staff and volunteers in services accessed by socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals or groups should receive specialist training in recognising, understanding and responding to individuals who are in distress and may be suicidal (even if they do not say they are feeling suicidal).
• People bereaved or affected by suicidal behaviour, and therefore at higher risk of suicide themselves, should be offered tailored psychological, practical and financial support particularly in disadvantaged communities.

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