Irish Charities Issue Warning of Potential Deadly Cost of Recession

While most Irish charities are facing their own recession-related concerns, the Samaritans have issued perhaps the starkest warning yet of the potential impact that the crisis could have on the most vulnerable in society. The charity fears that increasing financial burdens and worries could lead to a rise in suicides, particularly around the Christmas period.

The charity has called on people to remain vigilant and alert to friends, family and colleagues who may be facing distress over the holiday period. The rising unemployment levels, as well as uncertainty over the future for those still in work, have been identified as factors, which could add to people’s stress in the coming weeks and months.

Joe Ferns of the Samaritans recently told the Irish Times that, "Financial difficulty can contribute to the breakdown of even the strongest relationships with friends and family. People may rely more heavily on alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism and it is well established that excessive alcohol consumption and drug misuse increase suicide risk”.

Recent research carried out on behalf of the charity found that unemployed people are two to three times more likely to die by suicide than people in jobs and that unemployed men are at greater risk than unemployed women. Last year the Samaritans received over half a million calls to their helpline. The charity has calculated that one in 10 of these calls was directly related to a financial concern and of these, 41% were specifically employment-related, 32% were housing-related and another 25% of the calls were debt-related.

Similarly, the advice helpline, Aware, a national voluntary organisation providing support through depression, has reported a large increase in calls being made to its services since September. Speaking to the Irish Times, Sandra Hogan of Aware said that, “We do know that difficult financial times can lead to people feeling extra pressure and can certainly aggravate any underlying concerns that they may have”.