Wage Slave News - Contents

Wage Slave News


Capitalism and Mental Health

5 June 2008

The recent suicide of an eighteen-year-old Carelton University student has spotlighted one of capitalism’s problems that doesn’t often hit the headlines. Ron Csillag reporting in the Toronto Star, (April 26) makes this comment, “…The stress of first year university away from home and accumulated emotional trauma that was doubtless indescribable and her depression may have been immune to treatment, she became one of the 50 females between the ages of 15 and 19 who commit suicide in Canada every year.”

Statistics concerning youth suicide in Canada are not the most glowing tribute to life under capitalism. In 2004, the last year for which figures are available, 17 boys and 11 girls between 10 and 14 committed suicide. For each suicide there are 100 attempts and more than 2 300 Canadians are hospitalized each year because of them.

In Canada, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 15-24 (after accidental injuries) and the third leading cause among children aged 10-14. Doctors have recently noticed the onset of depression at earlier ages than before, “Ten to fifteen years ago, it would be very common for these things to be on-setting around age 17, 18, or 19,” says Dr. Marshall Korenblum, chief psychiatrist at Toronto Hincks-Dellorest centre for children, “Now we’re seeing it in 13, 14, and 15 year-olds, and it’s more severe than it used to be”.

Boys kill themselves at three times the rate for girls because asking for help is not considered ‘macho’. It implies weakness and would, if discovered by peers, leave the boy open to ridicule. The suicide rate for males aged 15-19 was 14.7 per 100 000 and for females, 4.7. Though some depressed teenagers do seek counseling (15-20%), it is hard to tell exactly how many do not respond to therapy or medication. Many suffer from treatment resistant depression. Some do not seek treatment knowing that their families will be informed if the health official believes a patient is suicidal. One may well wonder what would cause physically healthy young people to think about suicide when ahead may lie university, a career, wealth, and a family of their own. According to Korenblum, “Going off to university is a major stress inducer. But stress on families has risen. It’s just taking its toll on kids who are exposed to more and more things at younger and younger ages.”

Stress is certainly a large part of the problem, especially when one has to work to pay for tuition fees and rent. This, and the time spent studying, leaves little time for recreation. Furthermore, the need to succeed makes for a nervous person to begin with. Capitalism’s credo emphasizes that unless you are doing well, meaning passing exams and eventually getting a well-paid job, you do not count, or that you are a failure. Nor must it be assumed that this pertains to college kids alone. Though no figures are available, many teen suicides occur among those who never go to university, but who still fail to live up capitalism’s artificial standards.

Teen suicide is one of many reasons that underline the plain fact that the need for a socialist society is greater than it has ever been. A system of society based on production for use, not for profit, will cause a tremendous and positive change in people’s attitudes to these matters. When everyone stands equal to the tools of production, everyone will be valued and feel that they count for something. Education will continue, of course, but it will serve the individual, not the other way round. Unsuitability for one thing would simply open doors to something else without the threat of being seen as a failure or of the possible loss of the ability to make a living. To any young person who wonders if there is a point to our existence, we in the Socialist Party of Canada say, “Yes, there is a world to be won for the workers, a world where mankind counts above all else.”

Table of Contents - Wage Slave Newsline