Unemployment: Social issue affecting Ireland

Unemployment: Social issue affecting Ireland

Ireland has had one of the highest unemployment rates among the European Union members ever since its admission in the Union in 1973. The unemployment rate in Ireland has been rising for most of the time except for the years 1977-1979 and 1988-1990 when the trend was declining. Unemployment is associated with many social issues in society ranging from abject poverty, social exclusion, domestic violence, drug abuse and general crime. For the purpose of this research however, this paper will be restricted to analysis of literature and evidence pointing towards relationship between unemployment in and psychological distress for the people of Ireland. In this case, the social issue to be discussed is psychological stress arising from unemployment situation in Ireland, (Dillon and Butler, 2011).
People who are unemployed exhibit various subjective experiences. This is because those who are unemployed incur significant welfare losses including reduced consumption. However, there are quite a great deal of psychological costs deriving from unemployment which includes; the general lack of morale, uncertainty about future, loss of identity, distress due to social exclusion, and among other things, distress due to poverty where one cannot afford basic needs. There is evidence that links suicide rates to unemployment in Ireland. For instance, Corcoran and Arensman (2010) established that the suicide risk between 1996 and 2006 was higher for the unemployed Irish than the employed Irish. Similarly, The National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF) of Ireland reported a 5% increase in the number of self-harm cases admitted and treated in Hospital between the years 2008-2009, (NSRF, 2009). This was largely attributed to the economic recession of the time during which unemployment rate was high.

Statement of Problem:
There is a causal relationship between unemployment and mental health problems among the Irish. Existing research has done little to address the social issue of increasing cases of mental health and well being problems arising from the unemployment situation in Ireland. Evidence points out the high possibility that unemployment damages mental health, (Watkin, 1985). It is important to understand and appreciate the magnitude of the problem in order to recommend measures to help minimize the damage in future.

Purpose of the study:
The goal of this research is to enhance the understanding of health issues and challenges related to unemployment in Ireland with particular reference to mental challenges facing the Irish.

Significance of the Study:
This study provides an opportunity for establishing the link between unemployment and mental health issues through available evidence from researches done hence recommend policy framework and measures that would help reduce the potential damages associated with this social issue in future. This study will be of particular importance to the various stake holders both in the government and private sector policy framework, the people affected or likely to be affected by unemployment in Ireland and the Researchers too.

Research Questions:
1. Is there a causal relationship between unemployment and mental health?
2. Is there a significant relationship between suicide trends and unemployment?
3. Is the mental health impact of unemployment different between men and women?

2.0 Literature Review:
There exists evidence both at national and international levels that link unemployment to poor mental health and well being of individuals. It was mentioned in the introduction part of this paper that unemployment generates subjective thoughts among the unemployed. The mind of the unemployed person struggles endlessly with issues to do with how to take care of the family, how to maintain personal identity and friends, how to get basic needs including food and medication, and how to interact with others in society. With time, these thoughts lead to denial and mental distress. In many cases, the unemployed may be driven into social crimes due to idleness and need for survival. Yet others will resort to suicide because they cannot hold on any longer, (Bakke, 1933 & Jahoda, 1982).
According to research by Woodward and Kawach, (1998), the well being effects of unemployment vary depending on various factors such as gender, age, ethnicity, financial status and social support. Consequently, study by Furham (1982, 1988) found that people tend to have three different types of explanation when asked to account for effects of unemployment on their well being: Some individuals give societal account and express opinion that socio-economic and political factors are responsible for their unemployment. Some hold extreme (fatalistic) account maintaining that unavoidable circumstances are responsible for their unemployment. Others give individualistic accounts maintaining that they are responsible for their own unemployment situation. All these cases give different subjective experiences arising from unemployment but they all provide evidence of the psychological distresses they undergo following unemployment situation, (Banerjee and Mullainathan 2007).
The World Health Organization literature review reported a high likelihood that unemployment can damage both the physical and mental health, (Watkin, 1985). Research by Platt (1984, 1986) established a correlation between unemployment and increased risk of both attempted and successful suicide cases. According to international literature review by Jin et al, (1995), there was a correlation between unemployment and death arising from heart disease. This was attributed to factors including high stress levels, erosion of community and personal relationships, precipitation of a bereavement reaction and greater risk behavior such as malnutrition and alcoholism. According to Kinderman et al, (2008), a study conducted by the British Psychological Society, it was found that there is a link between prolonged unemployment and worsening state of both physical and mental health with increased suicide and premature death risk. Barnes et al, (2009) reported the findings of research by Britain’s Social Exclusion Task Force which established that depression was a more likely characteristic among people who lost their jobs than those working hence mental ill-health is more likely to be experience by the unemployed.
Coming closer home to the Irish situation, there are numerous researches and findings establishing evidence of the link between unemployment and mental ill-health among the Irish. According to Health Research Board report (2008), the most important predicator of psychological distress was noted to be unemployment. Similarly, a study by Walsh and Walsh (2011) which involved examining suicide rates among the Irish between the years 1968-2009 established that the major causal factors for suicide were unemployment and alcohol consumption. Corcoran and Arensman (2010) established that the suicide risk between 1996 and 2006 was higher for the unemployed Irish than the employed Irish. In another similar study, the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF) of Ireland reported a 5% increase in the number of self-harm cases admitted and treated in Hospital between the years 2008-2009, (NSRF, 2009). The live register statistics for the republic of Ireland indicate that suicide rates for men was higher compared to those for women and that suicide rates were higher among the ages above 25 years.
It was mentioned earlier that unemployment leads to poverty and social exclusion. In the Republic of Ireland, the Survey of Income and Living Conditions (SILC) in 2008 established that rural populations were at a higher risk of poverty hence more disadvantaged and socially excluded than urban areas. The NSRF statistics indicated that Northern Ireland exhibited high levels of suicidal behavior in the more disadvantaged areas. These rates were shown to be two thirds higher in the disadvantaged areas SUCH AS THE North and West Belfast compared with the rest of Northern Ireland, (NSRF, 2010). A study by Nexus (2002) found that Irish men living in parts of Dingle peninsula and Belfast suffered negative social consequences following the collapse of dairy farming and ship building industry in these areas respectively, (Dillon and Butler, 2011).

3.0 Findings:
It was established that there exists a strong causal connection between unemployment and mental ill health among the Irish. This was demonstrated from the international and Ireland based evidence in this study. For instance, the evidence of higher suicide rates among the unemployed Irish men is a clear pointer to fact that subjective experiences arising from unemployment can better account for the suicidal tendencies. Secondly, the evidences enumerated also suggest that men face more adverse mental challenges than women. In Ireland, the economic recession period was particularly identified to have exhibited increasing cases of suicidal behavior hence a conclusion that the scale of challenges was correlated with the level of economic challenge, (Dillon and Butler, 2011).
This research established that unemployment causes depression and low self esteem. This is as a result of the feeling of hopelessness, uncertainty about future, family tensions that arise out the need for basic needs and the rejection or social exclusion in society due to class differences. In other words, unemployment adversely affects people’s financial, family and social well being which then lead to deterioration of their mental and physical health as well. The unemployed struggle with social stigma from friends, family and peers.
Based on the fact that these trends have been persistent and ongoing for quite a long time in Ireland, it is clear that there has lacked sufficient response mechanisms to address the unemployment mental health challenges that have been witnessed. It means therefore that more need be done to address these challenges from an informed perspective. Since the challenges involved are of diverse social, cultural, and psychological dimensions, it would require a multi-faceted and all inclusive framework of responses in order to satisfactorily address the challenges. The next section of this paper therefore highlights various recommendations to be considered for future handling of the challenges identified, (Dillon and Butler, 2011).

4.0 Recommendations:
There is need for a proper approach to awareness creation and information dissemination regarding issues and challenges emerging from unemployment. Since policies are made for society, it is important that the challenges be addressed based on wider societal understanding. Communication need to capture the hard facts of the situation. For instance, the adverse effects of the unemployment situation among the Irish must be clearly articulated with connection to both economic trend and increasing rates of unemployment in Ireland. Important aspects such as insecurity around unemployment must be captured because they contribute towards deterioration of physical and mental well being of the Irish. It is also important to communicate the need for adequate positive response to challenges when they occur, (Dillon and Butler, 2011). This is because failure to communicate becomes even more costly in the long run.
It is necessary that the response of mainstream service providers be improved to enable the Irish build understanding and trust the service providers whose response need be based on the people’s needs, (Lynch, 2009). There has to be an effective structure in which training resources and initiatives are developed to allow for flexibility and diversity. In Ireland, the Headstrong initiatives provide a good example of this practice.
There is need to build and support local development infrastructure with a view to ensuring a first point access within a secure and trusting framework. Capacity building should involve partnering with community base groups and strengthening their relationship with mainstream service providers.
It is important to enhance collaboration and representation regarding rural poverty and exclusion. There is need for cooperation to have policies integrated for the general good of the Irish and a commitment to build a shared future.

5.0 Conclusion:
Ireland has had one of the highest unemployment rates among the European Union members ever since its admission in the Union in 1973. There is a causal relationship between unemployment and mental health problems among the Irish. There exists evidence both at national and international levels that link unemployment to poor mental health and well being of individuals. This study provides an opportunity for establishing the link between unemployment and mental health issues through available evidence from researches done hence recommend policy framework and measures that would help reduce the potential damages associated with this social issue in future. These include; awareness creation and information dissemination regarding issues and challenges emerging from unemployment, helping improve response by mainstream service providers in future, building and supporting local development infrastructure with a view to ensuring a first point access within a secure and trusting framework and enhancing collaboration and representation regarding rural poverty and exclusion, (Dillon and Butler, 2011).

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