Wednesday, 29 May 2024
Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Report: Economic woes leading to increased thoughts of suicide in young adults

Young adults going through economic turmoil have described feeling like a ‘lost generation’, even resorting to eating food raw in order save on energy bills, Samaritans have found. 

The leading suicide prevention charity discovered that more than a quarter (29%) of 18–24-year-olds have experienced suicidal thoughts in the last 12 months, based on findings from a YouGov survey. This figure rises to more than a third (36%) for those who had experienced some form of economic disruption (including having lost their jobs, are working fewer hours, working fewer regular hours, have needed to start claiming benefits or have seen their income fall). 

Samaritans have launched its Impact of Economic Disruption on Young Adults report, based on the findings from the survey of 2,766 young adults and a series of in-depth interviews. The report reveals that: 

  • Repeatedly not being able to pay bills or afford food and not getting anywhere with job applications meant young adults hope reduced over time and, alongside low morale, they lacked the emotional energy to cope.
  • Being unable to contribute financially to family life left many feeling like they had failed.
  • Feeling suicidal during a global pandemic felt different for those with previous experience of feeling this way. The distress was out of their control, unfamiliar and impacted many areas of their lives. Previous ways of coping felt less relevant, accessible, or useful.
  • In some cases, young people felt forced to go to work in unsafe conditions but had no alternative.
  • Interview respondents described how economic disruption had led to feelings of defeat, entrapment, shame, and hopelessness.

During the pandemic, financial worries have been a key concern for young adults, who are often on lower salaries, have little or no savings and are faced with tough competition for jobs, meaning they have been hit particularly hard by the economic fallout.

In January 2021, one in five 18-24-year-olds who were in work before the pandemic was no longer working, compared to four percent of 25-54-year-oldsSamaritans volunteers have described callers fearing becoming part of a lost generation and the charity’s previous One Year On report has shown young people, especially young women, experiencing significant deterioration in their mental health since the coronavirus hit.  

Carly, 21, took part in the interviews and said: 

“My mental health was crashing down, and I felt like I didn’t want to be here anymore. And for the first time, it wasn’t only about me personally, but it was the world. I wanted to keep living, but not in that particular world. There was nothing I could do, I could change my life, but nothing could change my environment…there was nothing that could be done at least on my own, it wasn’t down to me, so it was scarier.” 

Now Samaritans is calling on the Government and NHS to make sure young people get the support they need for a brighter future. This includes making sure financial support is broadened to everyone with a mental health care plan, helping young adults back to work with expanded placement and support schemes and funding a network of early access mental health hubs in England. 

Julie Bentley, CEO of Samaritans, said:

Although suicide is complex, and rarely due to a single cause, we know that there is a link between economic downturn and suicide. While we haven’t seen evidence of a rise in the national suicide rate during the pandemic, the labour market has been hit in a different way to previous economic shocks and younger people are paying the heaviest price.  

There is nothing inevitable about suicide, and there is also nothing inevitable about young people bearing the economic and health scars from the pandemic. Getting young adults the right support in difficult times must now be a priority. Samaritans is calling on Government to ensure that young adults are helped back into stable, fair-paid work, provided with financial help, and given timely mental health support too. This will ensure that young adults who have lost their jobs, have fewer hours or are facing an uncertain future can see a way out, preventing them from feeling more trapped and reducing their suicide risk.” 

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