The suicide rate in Kansas rose by a staggering 30 percent between 2011 and 2012, according to new government data. Although experts can’t pinpoint a single reason for the spike, many believe that a combination of cuts to mental health funding and the socioeconomic stresses brought on by the global recession are to blame.
There is abundant evidence that economic despair propagates mental health problems — particularly among men. A recent, first-of-its-kind study measuring the impact of the recession on global mental health found that suicide rates increased significantly in countries whose unemployment rates also rose. In fact, a 37 percent higher unemployment rate was linked to a 3.3 percent increase in men’s global suicide rate.
In America, the recession exacerbated a suicide rate that had already been rising for over a decade. Unfortunately, that trend corresponded with massive cuts to mental health care funding as cash-strapped states tried to balance their budgets. States collectively cut $1.8 billion from mental health services between 2009 and 2011, and by some other estimates, that figure is actually closer to $4.35 billion between 2009 and 2012. Kansas instituted the ninth largest cut to mental health care of any state in the nation between 2009 and 2012.
As The Nation points out, another round of cuts imposed by sequestration has forced the federal government to pull back funding for substance abuse and mental health programs. That hits local communities hard — for instance, one community health center in Kansas lost over half of its funding thanks to a combination of state budget cuts and sequestration.
“Treatment dollars have gone down and more and more people are coming to us, a growing number without any other payment for services,” said Marilyn Cook, executive director of the Sedwick County community health center, in an interview with the Wichita Eagle. “[W]ithout adequate funding, it’s difficult for us to get to everybody who needs care and help.”