The Unspoken Consequences of the Crisis

Here we are, in the festive season, rushing to buy presents and to organise family gatherings. It appears that we have been longing for this time of the year, when we finally take a break from work and enjoy the warmth of our fireplaces with our dearest. Most blogs are posting about lovely snowfalls and romantic white landscape.

Yet, in today’s online edition of the European Observer, one of the main headlines reports on an unspoken issue: the mental health consequences of the financial crisis in Europe.  In a short video, we are told how suicide rates are on the rise and the human rights expert Gabor Petri, from Mental Health Europe, describes how citizens are being affected.

I do not intend to spoil the festive mood, however I want to spare a moment to look at the reality of things around us.

Are we all really that happy?

Let’s face it: there are many families who can’t reach the end of the month, let alone buy Christmas presents and spend money on luxiurious family dinners. No one might want to think about it or admit it, but the tension in the financial markets has entered our homes. Clearly, there are different levels of ‘crisis’. I am no expert in the field, but economic hardship has historically been associated with deep changes in society, such as rise in crime rates, family break-ups or mental health issues. This crisis is not exempt from such unfortunate and undesired consequences.

Young people often don’t see the point in carrying on with their studies, since obtaining a degree no longer guarantees or increases chances of employment. In Italy, young generations are supported by the old, retired generation. The cycle of life seems to have turned around and it is upsetting the balance of society, by harming our mental health and stability. The old are helping the young, and the young feel they are not ‘useful’ to society or themselves. However, also the old are affected: we know that higher and higher numbers of old people who have no longer the means to sustain themselves and see their pension benefits cut on a daily basis. They find themselves old, alone and poor with younger generations unable to help them.

According to the European Observer statistics in today’s article “Mental health problems on the rise during financial crisis”, almost 1 in 10 Europeans is affected by mental health issues. These issues are not blatant and tend to be an ‘unspoken’ problem. People are scared of mental health issues yet many are affected by them, unknowingly. When presenting for the first time a European Commission paper on Mental Health issues in Europe (17 October 2011), the European Health Commissioner, Markos Kyprianou, stated:

“I can think of no other disease that would remain so low profile if such a high percentage of the population were struck by it. Mental health has been swept under the carpet for too long.”
Whether we like it, or not, perhaps this is a good time of the year to think about some of these serious unspoken consequences of the financial crisis and stop sweeping them under the carpet as some merely old-fashioned taboo.

6 thoughts on “The Unspoken Consequences of the Crisis

  1. I’ve seen the “financial upset” both in the strikes and civil unrest in Europe and in the “Occupy” movements here in the States. Even our traditional “Black Friday” (the Friday after our Thanksgiving in November) sales have turned into massive returns earlier this month, with people literally having buyer’s remorse even before they could give the gifts they bought. Even in our tiny town, I’ve seen somewhere between twice and three times as many people showing up for the monthly free food giveaway at the church across the street, as showed up last year at this time. More and more of our news sources are taken up by financially related reports. Even our Congress just barely passed a funding bill for 2012, and have pushed off other legislation for just two months.
    And statistics coming in don’t paint a very rosey picture for 2012. Even the German powerhouse economy is supposed to grow very limitedly, and recession is predicted for many of the troubled economies that saw bailouts over the summer. With all this on the horizon, I’m sure we’ll see an increase in “personal problems” – and just in time for the soldiers returning from Iraq to also require mental health support while they re-acclimate to civilian life.
    And on that thoroughly depressing note, I will still push forward and wish you a Merry Christmas, or Happy Hanukkah, or just an fun 2nd half of December. Enjoy! 😀

  2. The secret of mental health is not improve one’s economic situation, but to realise that happiness can be achieved outside of the rat race.
    As you write, students are no longer interested in finishing their degrees because they can’t see jobs or careers. I did it the other way round, I gave up my career to become a student again, just for the fun of it. And I am happy! Poor, but happy.
    Also, location matters a lot. I was getting sad after two years in London because of the big city, millions of people, bad weather, so I moved to small island in the Mediterranean: – It has improved my psychological well-being tremendously.

    • This is true to a certain extent. People who are experiencing economic hardship are depressed because of the economic situation! I can’t speak for myself, but I can imagine that if you are a father with children and you lose your job, moving to a Mediterranean island to get some tan or going back to study, is not going to give you money to feed your kids every day!

      In general terms, you’re right about attitude to mental health. But I think that applies to those of us who, despite not being rich, are still lucky enough to be able to make such choices!

      My mum made a point which I actually found extremely interesting: she told me that, in her opinion, this crisis will end when our society will learn to live with the new technologies in a healthy way. Right now, our crisis is not purely economical. It is a cultural crisis because we have not been able to take in the rapid progress of technology and this has invaded our lives. Most of us (if not everyone) are not able to control this ‘invasion’ and this is also an element affecting people’s mental health (e.g. again, looking at young people losing interest in everything and not being able to concentrate).

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