Posts Tagged ‘Work Social Clubs’

Vox Political on the Rise in Suicide under the Tories

February 21, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has this article, The UK’s main growth area continues to be SUICIDE, reporting the rise in suicide under the Tories. The article begins

The Office for National Statistics has released the latest figures on suicide, which show that the proportion of people taking their own lives has grown faster than the UK economy.

The statistics cover the calendar year 2013, when the economy grew by 1.7 per cent – but suicides increased by more than double that amount – four per cent. This writer has seen unconfirmed estimates that suggest a rise of 12-13 per cent since the Coalition Government took office in 2010 – that’s up by one-eighth.

The mail suicide rate in 2013 was the highest since 2001, at 19 per 100,000 members of the population. This was almost four times higher than the female rate (5.1 per 100,000), which has stayed constant.

As Vox Political reported back in 2012, suicide continues to be the most reliable indicator of the UK’s true economic activity: The highest suicide rate among the English regions was in North East England, at 13.8 deaths per 100,000 population, while London had the lowest at 7.9 per 100,000. The Northeast has been one of the areas hardest-hit by the banker-engineered recession and Tory-engineered cuts (if not the hardest-hit altogether); London has benefited the most from government investment.

Mike reproduces the graph figures, and shows that most of the victims are late middle aged men, who stand little chance of finding work after being made redundant.

The article’s at Go and read it.

The male suicide rate has gradually overtaken the female since the 1970s. As Mike’s commenters point out, there are a number of personal, emotional reasons why men try to kill themselves, rather than seek help for depression. Part of this may be due to some aspects of the traditional conception of masculinity: rather than show weakness, men suffer in silence until it becomes too great to be borne. Also, women tend to have better social networks than blokes, and this helps to share the misery and give them support.

The Faily Heil also covered this topic over two decades ago, and as you could expect from this newspaper, it decided that part of the problem was the emasculating effect of modern feminism and the entry of women into the workplace.

In fact, I don’t think it can be reasonably doubted that the social and economic changes put into practice by the Coalition have contributed to the growth in suicide. The massive de-industrialisation committed by the Tories meant that many were thrown out on the dole with little chance of getting another. Without a pool of reasonably well-paid workers to purchase their products, local businesses also die. And this is apart from the failure of many high street shops to compete with on-line retailers. The result is the landscape of depressed, struggling towns up and down the country, and high streets lined with empty shop fronts. It’s an environment that creates despair.

Added to this is the harsh misery created by the government’s own workfare programmes, which are designed to make you feel miserable and helpless.

And behind all this is the Conservative conception of society itself. This is the liberal, ideal of society as composed of rational, competing individuals. It’s the Hobbesian view of human society, not as communities made up people bonded together by shared occupations and interests, but simply composed of alienated social atoms, waging ‘the war of each against all’.

A little while ago researchers looked at the incidence of heart disease. By looking at Civil Service records, they found that the groups that suffered the most were the people at the bottom of the employment ladder. Those at the top remained in good health. This really is no surprise, as if you’re at the very bottom of the ladder, you’re under much more stress than those at the top. One of the top civil servants interviewed for a programme on this broadcast by the Beeb said he didn’t feel unduly stressed, as when he got his job in Whitehall, he viewed all the splendour of the historic buildings and the pomp and authority of his position as being for him.

The way people can circumvent this destructive stress, is by developing strong social bonds. The researchers found that one of the groups that had successfully bucked the trend in heart disease was a community of Italian-Americans. They had strong social bonds, including worshipping together at the local church and actively participating in the church community.

Not everyone is religious, and certainly not in an increasingly secular Britain. Traditionally, there have also been other social bonds, which would also have provided some of the same functions. These would have included trade unions, sports clubs, the traditional British boozer, and work social clubs. These have all come under attack from the type of highly competitive, fiercely individualistic capitalism that has emerged in the past few decades. Thatcher set out to smash the unions and working class solidarity. Pubs are closing at a rate of knots as they are unable to compete with the cheaper booze you can drink at home sold in supermarkets and off-licences, and many businesses simply have no interest in providing for their workforce. Quite the contrary. And the sports clubs have all got long waiting lists as councils have been forced to close or sell off sports facilities.

The result is that the traditional social networks that helped to giving meaning and social support, especially to men, have been cut. For a few, the despair this has engendered has become unbearable.

The causes of suicide are complex, and quite often very personal to the individual who took the step of ending their life. But a good step in at least cutting the number of people taking their lives would be to try and restore economic health to struggling areas, and rebuild the communal ties Thatcher destroyed when she said, ‘There is no society. There is only people’.

And it means challenging the hierarchical assumptions of the Tories. As the saying goes ‘We all have equal worth’.