A new report by Samaritans analyses how young adults have experienced thoughts of suicide over the last 12 months, finding that financial stability and economic turmoil are contributing substantially to how young people aged 18-24 are feeling about their lives.
Content warning: this article mentions suicide.
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On Tuesday the 7th of December suicide prevention charity, Samaritans launched their report, Impact of Economic Disruption on Young Adults. The report, which based its findings on a YouGov survey of over 2,700 young adults as well as a series of in-depth interviews.
Just under 30% of young adults between 18 and 24 had experienced suicidal thoughts in the last 12 months
Importantly, the report found that for those who experienced some kind of financial or economic disruption, such as losing a job, having their hours cut, claiming benefits, the above figure rose to 36%, pointing to a distinct correlation between suicidality and financial stresses and struggles.
Suicidal ideation or thoughts of suicide are frequently misunderstood as being only common in those who are displaying some kind of mental-ill health, such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder. However, as this report shows, money-related stress owing to changes in economic or financial status are clearly catalysts for suicidal thinking, whether mental-ill health is present or not.
Some key findings from the report were:
- Young people not able to pay bills, afford food, and not having successful job applications resulting in ‘young adult’s hope reduced over time’ and that they ‘lacked the emotional energy to cope.’
- Feelings of failure associated with being unable to contribute to family life.
- Those who had previously felt suicidal experienced increased distress during the pandemic, respondents specifically noted that ‘Previous ways of coping felt less relevant, accessible, or useful.’
- Reports of feeling pressured or forced to work in ‘unsafe conditions’ because there was no alternative.
- Interviewees described feelings of defeat, entrapment, shame, and hopelessness as a result of ‘economic disruption’.
Young people are very often far less financially stable than people over the age of 25, with many working jobs on lower salaries, or studying and working alongside it. To add to this, many have little to no savings and face harsh competition in the job market owing to so many young people applying to the same positions at once. All of this amounts to enormous pressure on young people and their financial security.
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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 more scary.”
Samaritans volunteers have recounted callers who fear becoming ‘part of a lost generation’, with a particular focus on young women who, as shown in the One Year On report by Samaritans, have experienced significant deterioration in their mental health since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Samaritans are now recommending that to prevent the suicides of young people, especially those between 18 and 24, the government and NHS must ensure financial support is broadened to those with a mental health care plan or who are known to services, and increased opportunity to access work placements, support schemes and early access mental health hubs.
CEO of Samaritans, Julie Bentley spoke on this latest report’s findings and what it means for the greater effort of suicide prevention: “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 feeling more trapped and reducing their suicide risk.”
If the issues discussed in this article impact you or someone you know, you can get in touch with Samaritans, 24/7, 7 days a week for FREE via their helpline on: 116 123. Or find out other ways to contact them here.