Dying for Work: Mental Health, Unemployment and Suicide

It seems that a local issue is a national issue as well. Too often these days this is the case. So, I’d like to make a statement and start the appropriate discussion rather than keeping the focus on the wrong discussion or letting the event be forgotten completely. The discussion we need to have is too important to have it lost in public confusion and misdirected outrage.

As reported by the Associated Press and other media outlets, a controversial public art display was created in Las Vegas.

Billboard with dummy on noose shocks Vegas drivers

While I didn’t create the display and have no knowledge of its creator, it brings up two of the most important and least discussed issues in Nevada and the rest of the U.S.:

Social Health Services & Unemployment Rates

These two subjects are intimately associated. Continued unemployment causes immense mental stress and depression in unemployed populations. The unemployed aren’t at fault though for this continued high unemployment rate. The majority of the responsibility lies with our elected officials that refuse to do more than skirt the issue, and multi-national corporations that are sitting on stockpiles of money but refuse to hire more employees and would rather give money directly to political figures through campaign contributions and lobbying efforts than to pay taxes and create jobs using revenue investments – despite record profits. This goes beyond just the unemployed though. It directly affects every person an unemployed person comes into contact with, especially their family and friends.

Across the U.S. far too many people, including many of our leaders view mental health as a personal responsibility; but it’s more than that. The mental well being of our people is a society wide problem that can only be fixed by publicly addressing the issue and providing community wide mental health assistance. Prior to the current economic depression, Nevada already had a sustained suicide rate nearly twice the national average that has only increased as unemployment rates have increased. “In Nevada, there has been a long standing misconception that suicide rates are associat­ed with visitors and non-residents who come to Nevada and ultimately commit suicide. To the contrary, a recent study of Nevada suicide has shown that suicide fatalities are 2 times more likely to be Nevada residents than non-residents (SPRC, 2005).”

Despite these basic facts, both personal experience and research show that Nevada is not and has not made a concerted effort to address this issue. In all of the news articles written about this public art display, not a single journalist actually dug down and attempted to fully address the very subject of the billboard art. News desk managers didn’t push for a real discussion of the message either and almost no one commenting on the articles addressed it. Real people are really dying, in escalating numbers, that could be easily prevented. 

If we ever hope to improve unemployment rates and improve mental health services that have been proven to protect people’s mental health and lives, we, the public, must have a consistent and honest discussion about the interconnections of these issues and we must demand that progressive solutions are implemented to improve them. Perhaps the spirited discussion spurred by this activist art can be redirected toward those who have the power to fix these underlying social issues rather than toward the method of social commentary used by the messenger. No matter how you feel about the method used to grab people’s attention, let’s take the opportunity to generate a real conversation to produce real solutions as a community that negates the perceived need for shock tactics.

Locally listed numbers for Suicide Prevention
(We called each of these on 8/10/2012 at 3pm)

Las Vegas Suicide Prevention Center:
(702) 456-0244  [Not in service]

Suicide Prevention Center of Clark County:
(702) 731-2990   [Not in service]

Suicide Prevention Hotline of NV:
(877) 885-4673    [Not in service]

Suicide Hotline:
(800) 333-5580    [Not in service]

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
(800) 273-8255  [-A WORKING LINE- Finally!]

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5 Comments

  1. Excellent article by Sebring Frehner and it’s true, Silence IS Betrayal – and America needs to have a national conversation about Mental Health and Suicide! BTW: There is a National Hotline Suicide Prevention Help-Line for Veterans 1-800-8255 (TALK) – Please Share Everyone – THANKS!

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