21 May 2014

The 20-year-old who ‘became a statistic’ and killed himself

Martin Hadfield’s parents put the 20-year-old’s suicide down to his struggle to find a job. He is not alone, and The Samaritans say there is a lack of “safety net” after this recession.

Martin Hadfield (pictured above) was a trained landscape gardener in Manchester. After losing his job when the firm he worked for downsized, he would walk past the gardens he used to tend and see them in a state of disrepair.

“He was so sad every time… He took such pride in his work”, said his stepfather, Peter O’Gorman.

Just three months after being made unemployed, and 40 unsuccessful job application down the line, Hadfield took his own life.

At an inquest into his death on Tuesday, his flatmate Stuart Evans talked about seeing his friend become “more and more fed up”. Mr O’Gorman told The Mirror: “Martin was a real grafter. He hated being out of work or sitting at home doing nothing. If he could have worked seven days a week he would have.”

Hadfield had ‘become a statistic’

The 20-year-old who left school with GCSEs and went on to get NVQs, was far from alone in his desperation. The Princes Trust said at the start of the year that one third of young people who are long-term unemployed have contemplated taking their own lives.

While unemployment has been falling since its 2011 peak, young people aged 16 to 24 are still bearing the brunt of a tough employment market. The most recent figures show that unemployment for this age group is at 19 per cent.

For those not in full-time education, the figure drops to 16.7 per cent – over three in 20 young people – compared to 6.8 per cent for the entire “economically active” population.

Mr O’Gorman said that by July 2013 when he died, his son had “become a statistic to other people. He was a statistic by being out of work, a statistic when he went into the Jobcentre and now he is a statistic by killing himself.”

Interviews at the job centre and numerous applications had yielded nothing for Hadfield, and his stepfather said he felt that jobs were going to younger or less qualified candidates who were cheaper to employ. The inquest into his death heard that he was found dead at his flat in Tottington, Greater Nottingham, just 24 hours after his last job centre interview.

Financial woes

The link between economic recession and suicide has long been recognised: financial problems have a huge impact on people’s material and mental wellbeing.

The Great Depression of the 1920s to 1930s led to mass unemployment, and a subsequent rise in suicides, especially among men. And a 2013 study into the effects of the 2008 global recession, published in the BMJ, said that the increase in unemployment had led to more suicides than expected – an extra spike in the UK of 300 in 2009 alone.

What’s been noticeable about this recession is that there isn’t the same kind of safety net for those who are struggling Sal Lalji

While suicides can never be attributed to just one thing, The Samaritans says that there has also been a rise in people calling when concerned about financial stresses: from one in ten calls in 2008, to one in six in 2013. The most recent figures also show that 5,981 people died by suicide in 2012 – fewer than the year before by 44, but still higher than 2007 pre-recession levels.

Samaritans spokeswoman Sal Lalji told Channel 4 News that changes to the welfare system alongside a financial recession have also had an impact, particularly because suicide is more likely to happen to those from more socio-economically deprived backgrounds.

“Recession and financial stress does have an impact on suicide figures and emotional wellbeing. What’s been noticeable about this recession is that there isn’t the same kind of safety net for those who are struggling,” she told Channel 4 News. “Having both happen in one go, is quite a lot for those living in lower socio-economic groups.”

She added: “suicide is an inequality issue. It’s an avoidable difference in health and length of life, that results from being poor and disadvantaged and which disproportionally affects men.”

You can contact The Samaritans at any time by calling 08457 909090. For more information, visit www.samaritans.org

Why men?

As well as being more common among those from a more deprived background, suicide is also much more common among men than women: men accounted for 77 per cent of those who took their own life in 2012.

Men in their 30s, 40s and 50s are at the highest risk, and a 2012 study by The Samaritans put this down to a number of factors, including the changing nature of the labour market and the decline of traditionally male industries, as well as changing relationships: men have tended to rely on a female partner for emotional support, but now, men (and women) are likely to have more than one partner, and go through periods of being alone.

As for 20-year-old Martin, coroner Simon Nelson said that he “intended the consequences of his actions”, but called for more openness, and less pride, among those who are struggling with whatever they are going through:

“Young men in particular tend to act or react impulsively to life’s events. The way of trying to come to terms with life’s events is talking it through – even if you do not realise it at the time.”