The Financial Crisis Is Driving Hordes of Americans to Suicide
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In December, coroner's investigators in Kern County, California, revealed that they were "seeing a wave of people committing suicide because of financial stress," a 5-10% increase over 2007.
An analysis of 2008 "death reports" in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, by local ABC television affiliate WISN-TV found "[f]inancial pressure in a difficult economy has led to desperate measures." Of 108 suicides -- a 20% jump over any of the last three years -- at least 25% of the victims "were struggling financially." For example, Wauwatosa resident Tom Brisch, a married father of two, fell on hard times after his wife of 20 years, Sherry, lost her job. At the same time, his job as a commission-only Ford car salesman fell victim to the sluggish auto market. As Sherry summed the situation up after his suicide, "[T]he economic picture with a kid going to college, another one starting high school... was pretty grim and we were struggling." She returned home one day to find that her husband had hanged himself. In his shirt pocket was a suicide note in which "he asked for forgiveness and wrote that he could not get it together to provide for them."
WISN-TV uncovered a host of similar tragedies including:
* A 21-year-old Milwaukee man who shot himself in the face after "he ran out of unemployment [insurance]."
* A 43-year-old West Allis man who hanged himself in his basement with a belt. "[T]he mortgage payments are behind," his girlfriend told the police. "There are astronomical medical bills."
* A 40-year-old Milwaukee woman who overdosed after having "financial problems."
* A 24-year-old Milwaukee man, "fired from his job three weeks before," who suffocated himself with Saran Wrap.
* And a 38-year-old Milwaukee man who shot himself in the head. He'd lost his job six weeks earlier.
In January, less than an hour's drive south of Milwaukee, 37-year-old Staci Paul's car was pulled from Lake Michigan, but they couldn't find the body of the Kenosha, Wisconsin, woman. As an article in the Kenosha News noted, however, friends "said they knew things hadn't been easy for Paul. A single mother, she worked hard to find jobs and as the economy worsened, friends speculated, Paul might have run into some financial trouble. Court records also show Paul had been evicted from her home in October."
Paul apparently felt she had to deal with her problems on her own. Others, however, have called for help. According to a January 9th report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, local police received a phone call concerning a 64-year-old resident of Westview, Pennsylvania, who was "apparently distraught over losing his house." When they arrived at the home, they found him "sitting in a lawn chair in his driveway with a rifle under his chin." He was later taken into custody and sent to a psychiatric clinic for "evaluation."
Increasing numbers of desperate souls have also called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which logged a record 568,437 calls in 2008. (There were only 412,768 such calls the previous year.) Similarly, a recent investigation by USA Today's Marilyn Elias found that suicide hotlines in Dallas, Pittsburgh, suburban San Francisco, Hyattsville (Maryland), Georgia, Delaware, and Detroit have all reported "increases in callers since the economy slid." The report added:
"In Boston, more hotline callers with mental health problems mention job losses, evictions or fear that they'll lose their homes, says Roberta Hurtig, executive director at Samaritans Inc. [a not-for-profit volunteer organization dedicated to reducing the incidence of suicide.] In Kalamazoo, Mich[igan], and other locales, callers with mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder say loss of insurance and cutbacks in public health programs are preventing them from getting medications.
"At the Gary, Ind[iana], Crisis Center, suicidal callers with economic worries are increasing, and their depression is more severe, says Willie Perry, program coordinator for the hotline."