Neoliberalism Is Killing Us: Economic Stress as a Driver of Global Depression and Suicide
By Noelle Sullivan, PhD
In anticipation of World Health Day on April 7, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a report showing rates of depression increased 18 percent between 2005 and 2015, now estimated to afflict over 300 million people worldwide. Approximately 800,000 people commit suicide each year. According to the WHO, poverty and unemployment are leading causes.
To be sure, mental health services are in critically short supply globally. While often correlated with poverty, mental illnesses can cause misery regardless of one's socioeconomic status.
However, as a faculty member in Global Health Studies at Northwestern University, I find it striking that the WHO highlights poverty and unemployment as leading causes of depression, yet suggests exercise, school-based prevention programs, therapy and medication to solve it. If poverty and unemployment are major causes of depression, shouldn't our remedies address economic drivers of poverty and unemployment, rather than narrowly focusing on school programs and exercise? Is expanding mental illness solely a health issue, or is it also a foreseeable response to expanding economic stress?