Monday, August 18, 2014

Mass Job Loss in a State Associated With Suicidal-Behavior Increase in Some Teens, Study Finds

Mass job layoffs have been found to play a role in triggering suicide-related behaviors in adults, and new research finds a similar association in some categories of teenagers as well, reports a study published in the American Journal of Public Health. Researchers at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University assessed whether a relationship existed between suicide-related behaviors in teenagers and substantial statewide job loss. Using data from 1997 to 2009 from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the researchers estimated the effects of mass layoffs—defined as affecting more than 50 employees at companies in a state—on suicide ideation, plans, or attempts, in a diverse population of 400,000 adolescents, with an average age of 16, across the United States. 

The results showed that when 1% of a state’s working-age population (individuals from ages 25 to 64) lost their jobs, all of the suicide-related behaviors assessed in the study increased by 2% in girls, whereas boys were unaffected. "For girls, economic hardship appears to have worsened existing tendencies," the authors suggested. When observing ethnicity and race only, the researchers found that job loss among at least 1% of a state working population was associated with a 2% to 3% increase in suicide-related behaviors in African-American teenagers. Mass layoffs did not appear to affect suicide-related behaviors in white or Hispanic teenagers. The researchers hope their findings may help clinicians identify teens who could be at increased suicide risk.

"During an economic hardship...there is an increase in depression, with suicidal thoughts and actions," said psychiatrist Paula Clayton, M.D., former medical director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in an interview with Psychiatric News. "Because of finances, people are less likely to seek appropriate help. And if on medication, [they are] less likely to buy their medications and more likely to skip treatment sessions." Clayton stressed that it is important for mental health clinicians who treat adolescents to be aware of the increased risk for psychiatric symptoms as a result of an economic downturn and discuss options with their patients and the community about "delivering first-rate care more effectively and cheaply," such as charging less, using trained assistants to see some patients, conducting telephone sessions instead of in-person sessions, and holding group sessions. In addition, Clayton concluded, mental health clinicians should provide educational tools about mental health issues and care resources to local schools and community dwellings.

To read more about how unemployment and economic downturn can contribute to adverse mental health conditions, see the Psychiatric News article, "Summit Conference Addresses MH Issues in Troubled City." For an extensive review of suicide-related issues, see The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Suicide Assessment and Management, Second Edition.

 (Image:Dora Zett/shutterstock)


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