The recent economic crisis has led to many negative consequences, not the least having to do with the mental health and well-being of the populations involved. Although some researchers say it is still too early to speak about a relationship between the economic crisis and a rise in mental health problems resulting in suicides, there is solid evidence for the existence of such a relationship. However, several moderating or mediating mechanisms can also play a role. The main reactions of most policy makers to the economic crisis are (severe) austerity measures. These measures seem to have, however, a detrimental effect on the mental health of the population: Just when people have the highest need for mental help, cost-cutting measures in the health care sector lead to a (substantial) drop in the supply of services for the prevention, early detection, and cure of mental health problems. Policy makers should support moderating mechanisms such as financial and psychological coping and acculturation and the role of primary health care workers in the early detection of suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, and suicide in times of economic recession. Several examples show that the countries best off regarding the mental health of their populations during the economic crisis are those countries with the strongest social safety net. Therefore, instead of cutting back on health care and social welfare measures, policy makers should in the future invest even more in social protection measures during economic crises.
Keywords: austerity; economic recession; mental health; review; social protection; suicide.