Sunday, March 29, 2009

Suicide and the global recession

The impact of our nation's recession is deepening with each passing day. As President Barack Obama attempts to assure us that we will bounce back from our economic setbacks, the numbers paint a gloomy story.

Last week, it was announced that the unemployment rate in Tennessee has risen to 9.1 percent. This was an increase from 8.6 percent the previous month.

The national media often focuses on other aspects of our economy like the stock market to determine if the economy is getting healthier. However, the unemployment rate should be our primary focus.

After all, if more people are still losing their jobs, then our economy can't be getting healthier.

What sometimes gets lost in all the coverage of this issue is that the recession is not just an American problem. We are going through a worldwide recession, and folks in other countries are suffering just as much as we are.

For example, Japan is limping right along with the United States. CNN recently had an interesting story about how that nation's slowdown is impacting its citizens.

During my lifetime, I have watched Japan blossom into a superpower when it comes to commerce. For most of us, our homes contain all sorts of appliances and equipment from Japanese companies.

Additionally, Japanese companies have brought lots of jobs to Middle Tennessee.

For people in that country, the economic setbacks are unprecedented for this current generation. And a lot of people are not taking it well.

The CNN story focused on Aokigahara Forest in Japan. According to the story, the forest is known for two things: a breathtaking view of Mount Fuji and it's a popular spot for people to commit suicide.

In a country where a person's identity is often associated with the type of job they have, the recent economic downturn has pushed many people over the edge.

In January, there were 2,645 suicides in Japan, which was a 15 percent increase over the same period last year. Authorities at the forest have posted security cameras in an attempt to prevent the killings.

Because March is the end of the Japanese fiscal year, authorities fear the total will continue to increase because of anticipated bad news about the economy.

Unfortunately, by committing suicide, many Japanese are choosing a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

We need to be careful not to underestimate the emotional toll the problems in America and Japan are creating. When a person is suffering financial strain, it often produces a feeling like the walls are closing in. It can feel suffocating. Maybe it is just another form of claustrophobia.

When it comes to attitudes toward jobs, I do not believe that Americans and the Japanese are that different. Americans often derive a certain amount of identity from their profession.

Here in America, I believe this often applies more to men than women. I hope that does not sound sexist because I am sure many women fall into the same trap that men do. However, it has been my experience that more men are susceptible to this.

The bottom line is there are a lot of hurting people right now. If you have a job, be grateful that you have it.

At best, our economy can be described as a wobbly machine. It may be functioning, but it is not anywhere close to performing at maximum capacity.

Better days will come, and let us hope it will be soon.

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