Devon suicides set to increase

13 July 2001

Devon suicides set to increase

THE suicide rate in areas of rural Devon will increase this autumn, according to a joint health authority and county council report.

The report, based on interviews with a cross-section of people affected by the foot-and-mouth outbreak, states: "There is likely to be an increase in anxiety, stress, acute or chronic depression and suicides in the farming community, though levels cannot yet be quantified."

Slaughtermen involved in killing for F&M control could suffer post-traumatic stress disorder and those rendered jobless by the consequences of the disease and its control could suffer "long-term serious effects on health including a potential increase in mortality, illness and health service usage".

Farming families had been especially upset by government officials ignoring their interests, focussing only on meeting livestock slaughter deadlines. The less well-off, such as farm workers and seasonal workers in the tourist industry, were the most likely to suffer the negative effects on health arising from job losses.

It was already known that unemployed people had lower levels of psychological wellbeing, "with symptoms ranging from depression and anxiety to self-harm and suicide". Concern was expressed that children may have specific mental health needs which had not yet been identified.

The report suggests peak incidence of mental health effects is likely to be this autumn.

The studys authors – North and East Devon Health Authority and the county council – go on to recommend continuing the special mental health services put in place when the F&M outbreak started. &#42

and officially monitoring nationally and locally some trend indicators such as visits to GPs, prescriptions for sleeping pills and anti-depressants.

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