Low-skill Jobs May Raise Suicide Risk Among Men

Suicide among low-skilled workers 44 percent higher than national average

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant


Men employed in low-skill jobs are 44 percent more likely to commit suicide than the national average, as reported by the US’s Office of National Statistics.

The figures don’t surprise Caryl Brent, licensed mental health counselor in Buffalo. She sees two primary issues at work: stress caused by low income and lack of knowledge about what could help.

“The way the mental health system is, it’s hard to get mental health help,” Brent said.

Many working poor don’t qualify for income-based insurance programs, and some find premiums, co-pays and deductibles unaffordable if they work for an employer who does not have to provide health insurance coverage.

Low-income jobs themselves tend to provide few opportunities for advancement. Lacking goals leads to hopelessness and depression, both of which are risk factors for suicide.

While seeking higher education seems an obvious step toward a more fulfilling life, a man working to support his family on a low income won’t have much time or energy to pursue training. The cost of education has risen exponentially in recent years and even free education costs time.

“Unfortunately, once depression sets in, it undermines motivation,” said Kathleen Calabrese, Ph.D, and marriage and family therapist in private practice in Buffalo. “It causes an inertia that undermines the ability to seek opportunities.”

For middle-aged and older men, seeking education for better employment can be even more difficult because they may have more responsibilities than younger, single people. Some have not engaged with technology and their employable skills lag behind because of it.

Calabrese encourages men to seek fulfillment within their familial relationships by enjoying the time they spend with them.

“If work is not satisfying, shift your attention to your family,” she said. “It’s right in front of you: the opportunity to strengthen and build your family.

“Children need Dad equally as much as they need Mom. I don’t think we’ve done a good job of making men realize their value, not just because they bring home a paycheck but because they’re human beings.”

Suicide Warning Signs

• Talking about suicide or death
• Hopelessness or helplessness
• Rage or uncontrollable anger
• Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities
• Feeling trapped, like there’s no way out
• Increased alcohol or drug use
• Withdrawing from friends, family and society
• Anxiety or agitation
• Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
• Dramatic mood changes
• Feeling there is no reason for living or no sense of purpose in life

Source: Crisis Services (www.crisisservices.org)