The voiceless’s last scream: a suicide a day among the unemployed in Italy

“You won’t suicide us”. White widows’ protest.

In the last few years many suicides in Italy have been strongly linked to the economic crisis and unemployment. 357 people killed themselves in 2009, compared to the 260 of the previous year: a 37.3% growth. 76% of those people had lost their jobs or couldn’t find one due to the crisis, with a smaller percentage of younger people who were looking for their first job.

Employment emerges as one of the general key causes of suicides: 18.4 suicides were recorded every 100.000 unemployed people, against 4.1 among the employed. This confirms the importance of a job as a way to build and improve someone’s life, especially in the male population, which has the highest percentage of suicides in general.

Another factor linking the suicides to the crisis is represented by the large number of suicides for economic reasons. In 2009 the number reached its highest score in decades: 198 suicides, a 32% growth compared to 2008. The phenomenon is largely a male one, confirming how the loss of work is intrinsically linked to the loss of identity and social role among Italian men.

Most of the suicides were recorded in regions of the more industrialised North, but it is the South of Italy that has seen the most drastic increase of the phenomenon, with a growth of 11% only in 2009.

Dozens of widowed wives, renamed “white widows” by the Italian media, have been organising protests to draw attention on this increasing plight; check out this article from The Guardian about a march in Bologna last April (there’s more under the “Italy” tag). Also talked about on BBC4′s “Woman’s Hour” (chapter 1).

The number of suicides and attempted suicides has also been dramatically growing in Italian prisons. 2009 has seen the highest score of the last 20 years, with 72 inmates killing themselves. If compared with the rest of the population, the risk of suicides among prison inmates is 20 times higher.

The translation above is based on extracts from the 2010 EURES report “Suicides in Italy in Times of Crisis”. EURES is a EU social research institute.

Italy Calling is on

Posted By

Italy Calling
May 23 2012 21:37


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May 24 2012 08:27

Makes for depressing reading.

I have attempted suicide due to unemployment when I was younger. I'm resigned to permanent unemployment now.

The bosses need to be brought crashing down pink black star

Italy Calling
May 24 2012 20:55

Yeah I know, it's horrible stuff to read, but I think people need to know - and people like you who've been in that situation need to tell their story.
There's still a lot of prejudices about unemployed people being lazy bastards who stay home to watch TV all day and "living the good life" (let alone us Italians, we're considered lazy anyway).
What I "liked" about this piece, and the main reason why I decided to translate it, is that it's all figures and facts. Deeply unsettling, but it gets to the point.
Good luck to you, glad you're still here with us.

May 24 2012 21:21

With the 'white widows' the suicide rate seems to be very gendered...

"While ideas about femininity have been reformed - not without a struggle - so that women are no longer believed to be defeminised by working for wages, masculinity has remained relatively unreconstructed. Men's tragedy is that unemployment makes them feel unmanned."

- Beatrix Campbell

Italy Calling
May 25 2012 10:48

Absolutely, and the report touches this a little bit. Unemployed or not, the suicide rate is higher among men (and not just in Italy). Being jobless has even a bigger impact on men because most of them still see providing for their families as the main (if not only) reason for living (just like marrying and having children used to be for women, and unfortunately still is for some).
Very interesting quote. Thank you.

Jun 21 2012 21:43
Apathy wrote:

She said I must confess it turns me on when I cut my flesh
There’s nothing left, I’m hollow, I’ll follow death
If it’s a change from the mundane Mondays
You know my pain, I’m empty inside, my veins pump Novocaine
Sometimes I feel like life isn’t real
And my brain is too busy and my mind don’t ever heal
I could never shut it off so I’d rather shut it down
Do it right the first time, I ain’t trying to fuck around
And she smiles for her friends but the smile is a mask
Any memories of happiness are filed in the past
I considered my garage foot revving on the gas
A slash and a gasp or a violent blast
I don’t believe in Hell unless it’s what I’m in
I wanna free my soul, straight jump out of my skin
She exhaled and sighed, eyes opened wide
Suicide, it’s a suicide

Army of the Pharaohs - Suicide Girl

Nov 11 2012 00:29