Mental-health Cost

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Suicide rates are unacceptably high. A U.S. soldier, present or recent past, is said to kill himself or herself every eighty minutes. In countries suffering economic crises, the situation is in some ways even more tragic.

Reuters reports that “behind every suicide in crisis-stricken countries such as Greece there are up to 20 more people desperate enough to have tried to end their own lives.”

The economic-austerity measures taken on behalf of the Euro have eroded and strapped life in Greece to its low point since the Resistance of World War II and the bloody civil war that followed. Sociologist at Cambridge University, David Stuckler, says: “Austerity can turn a crisis into an epidemic.” Such could foster a modern Greek tragedy worthy of Euripides.

Young Greeks, now facing years of economic retraction and deflationary pressures—and 50-percent unemployment—are likely to become, if not damaged for life, emotionally unhinged to degrees unknown. Even in such a family oriented society, generational fault lines are likely to form, never completely to be bridged. Often, violence follows—suicide being one manifestation, another being domestic or societal mayhem.

According to a paper prepared for WHO last year, the economic consequences of mental-health problems—mainly in the form of lost productivity—are estimated to average between three and four percent of GNP for the entire European Union.

“De-coupling” is the term du jour for economic and, ultimately, social isolationism. The global economy has become interconnected in ways not completely understood; and “de-coupling” from the economic activities of humanity is absurd if not naive or immoral.

Europe’s problems are North America’s. In the U.S., we cannot wrap ourselves in head-in-the-sand ideologies. Such are comforting in the short term. More trendy terminology, such as “reaching the tipping point” or “kicking the can down the road” now carry the edge of here-and-now reality. As depicted in the lifework of Dr. Stefan de Schill, and not to mix too many more metaphors, we must come to grips with emotional (and economic) realities.

Business cycles, the psychology of “worth” in a capitalist, market-driven environment, remain a source of mystery to and for what are known as “the worldly philosophers”. If at its root—and I do not believe this is simplistic theorizing—economics is a relation between supply and demand, the psychology of demand itself is not well understood. For example, absent damage beyond normal wear and tear or other radical environmental (natural or social) change, why would a real-estate property in 2006 carry a fraction of its former value in 2012?

Does economic depression (e.g., deflation) breed emotional depression? What is the ultimate cost to citizens and society of not treating the root emotional scars? What ought to be done on a large scale? Does Europe require what amounts to a Euro Marshall Plan?

These are tough people undergoing tough times. The economics of emotion and the emotion of economics require our thoughtful attention and praxis—another word derived from this magnificent ancient civilization.

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