Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Reader's Response To Piece On Suicide: "If I can't get a job by February, I will just kill myself on Valentine's Day."

AEM has been covering the topic of suicidal thoughts and student loan debt since last August. These pieces have received the most comments, and people, who have a lot of guts, have opened up about the pain and suffering they are going through as student loan debtors.

This evening, a woman named Liz shared her thoughts. Here's what she said:

I considered suicide. I know I really don't have a future. I'm aware that the only hope out of this mess is to 'start over' with reincarnation. I have 150k minimum in student loans. I have been looking daily for jobs. Can't believe they don't want a degree'd person to flip burgers. . . Can anyone tell my WHY I'm still not wanted? 
My loans will crush me, and I have no job as to pay the forbearance fees(Sallie Mae fees 150 PER LOAN OUT, Federal is free, Credit Union it depends). 
I've literally decided if I can't get a job by February(That covers Federal, Sallie Mae AND Credit Union loans) I will just kill myself on Valentine's day. . . now how do you make it look like an accident? I've heard "accidental" deaths are more likely to get the loans discharged.
As a graphic designer I am deeply offended that anyone would say I deserve this. I deserve much more then a shitty lie of a life with no future to show for it.

I told Liz, "I know it's not much consolation, but you aren't alone." Please let Liz know that you are rooting for her, and that she needs to hang on. Send her your support. We need people like Liz to survive this crisis. We need to keep on living, so we can share our stories with future generations (hopefully they won't have to endure the misery that so many of us are experiencing).

Related Links


"Suicides and Student Loan Debt," AEM (August 14, 2011)


"Suicide and Murder-Suicides," AEM (Jan 30, 2011)

Debt and Suicide (Radio interview with Shared Sacrifice; originally aired 16 December 2010)

Suicide Among Student Debtors - Who's Thought About It? (17 August 2010)

For The Indentured Class, Suicidal Thoughts Are Not Merely An Individual Problem (22 October 2010)

An Angry Mother Vents (4 October 2010)



Other Related Links:

99ers band together to save a life (27 January 2010)

Suicide Rates Up Since Recession Began, Debt A 'Way of Life' For 99ers (26 July 2010)

Tomgram: Nick Turse, Desperate Times and Desperate Measures (28 January 2009)

The Economic Crisis Is Getting Bloody - Violent Deaths Are Now Following Evictions, Foreclosures, and Job Losses (20 November 2009)







29 comments:

Leni said...

Hey Liz,

I know I felt that way a long time ago, Do not let this get you down, life will not always be like this, although it feels like that right now.

I used to feel like George Bailey in the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life"l I was worth more dead than alive. But it's not true.
Go volunteer and force yourself, I know it's hard, but you are worth it.

Liz said...

I am also named Liz, and I comment frequently here and on other blogs.

For the record, I am not considering suicide because who gives a good goddamn if you have no money? I mean, it sucks and all, but it's not like never being able to hang out with the assholes who care is holding me back in any way.

For the other Liz, ask yourself why you care that you have no money and got screwed. Then keep asking yourself until you get to the real answer. Because nothing, and I mean nothing, is worth the horror of losing your life.

I suspect for most people the answer is going to be something along the lines of, "I don't feel safe because this happened." And/or "I can't be loved by the kind of person I want to love me because this happened."

For the first consideration, yes, you're right, the loans are regrettable and difficult to comprehend if you need the world to be a safe, manageable place. It's not safe. The country and its leadership screwed over a large number of people. But who knows if you're really safe when you're dead? I mean, you could just end up in some life-after-death where you forever experience the last moment of your life, or some equally horrible feeling. We don't know.

For the second reason, well, the person you love is awful and not good for you. You know it. You have heard it all before. You just prefer to be DEAD than accept it and move on. If that's really what you want, that's your choice. But it won't change that person's mind. Nothing would change that person's mind. The kind of person who will judge and leave you for the loans would have just found some other reason to judge and leave, if the loans hadn't happened. You know this because THEY JUDGED YOU AND LEFT. That's what they do.

So, I hope this helped in some way. It's kindly meant, even if it does sound a little impatient with the whole "Oh I could be dead..." drama.

C. Cryn Johannsen said...

Thanks, Leni, for supporting Liz. We've all been there. I've been there. I've had some enormously dark moments, and have thought, "I am worth more dead than alive." It's a demoralizing feeling. That's why we must support one another. We're worth it - all of us.

Liz said...

I am also named Liz, and I comment frequently here and on other blogs.

For the record, I am not considering suicide because who gives a good goddamn if you have no money? I mean, it sucks and all, but it's not like never being able to hang out with the assholes who care is holding me back in any way.

For the other Liz, ask yourself why you care that you have no money and got screwed. Then keep asking yourself until you get to the real answer. Because nothing, and I mean nothing, is worth the horror of losing your life.

I suspect for most people the answer is going to be something along the lines of, "I don't feel safe because this happened." And/or "I can't be loved by the kind of person I want to love me because this happened."

For the first consideration, yes, you're right, the loans are regrettable and difficult to comprehend if you need the world to be a safe, manageable place. It's not safe. The country and its leadership screwed over a large number of people. But who knows if you're really safe when you're dead? I mean, you could just end up in some life-after-death where you forever experience the last moment of your life, or some equally horrible feeling. We don't know.

For the second reason, well, the person you love is awful and not good for you. You know it. You have heard it all before. You just prefer to be DEAD than accept it and move on. If that's really what you want, that's your choice. But it won't change that person's mind. Nothing would change that person's mind. The kind of person who will judge and leave you for the loans would have just found some other reason to judge and leave, if the loans hadn't happened. You know this because THEY JUDGED YOU AND LEFT. That's what they do.

So, I hope this helped in some way. It's kindly meant, even if it does sound a little impatient with the whole "Oh I could be dead..." drama.

Anonymous said...

Liz,

Have student debt issues? No biggie; just move to New Zealand or Australia and enjoy the rest of your life.

C. Cryn Johannsen said...

@non-suicidal Liz - you make some great points. Just remember, it's not drama though. If you take a peek, and perhaps you already have, at Barbara Ehrenreich's "Just shoot me article," you'll see she asserts that suicide is a rational choice. (That said, she's not condoning it and neither am I). So, it's not about "drama." It's about people being at the end of their rope.

M.Almeida said...

Liz,

I know how you feel. I'm also a BFA graduate (not graphic design, Illustration, which is GD's misunderstood jack-of-all-trades red head stepchild), and in November Sallie Mae will start breathing down my neck for private loans I cannot pay. I've been looking for a job too, and yes, I have been flat out told at McDonalds and box stores that somehow a degree in making pretty pictures suddenly makes me overqualified to stock shelves. Frankly, this mess, It's a common trend with art school/design grads, schools worth their salt are charging WAY too much nowadays. I know a large handful of creative degree grads who are in the exact six figure debt mess you and I are.

The more of us in the same boat, the less we can be ignored. Including the student loan mess, there are millions of Americans at the end of their rope. Things will change but it's going to take time. At least stick around to see what that sort of change is going to be, please.

If anything else, use that rage and hate to make something! I know I've been using my lack of employability to work on some personal projects, see where I can get myself on just myself, and not the screwed up job market. Have you at least tried your hands at freelancing, as overly annoying as it may be? It is a source of side income, at least, for the creative fields, and like hell Sallie Mae's going to have an easy time of tracking down clients and forcing them to squeeze blood from a stone. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking about that case where a debtor wrote a desperate letter mentioning suicide, and the company wrote back offering to sell life insurance. Couldn't they be charged with inciting to suicide for that?

If anyone remembers the incident, I hope someone follows up and go after them. (Maybe an unemployed law grad would take the case...)

C. Cryn Johannsen said...

@Anonymous 11:46 PM When do you recall hearing about that case? How heinous! I want to get my hands on that.

Samuel_Clemons said...

when we are under terrible stress, and a heavy burden, when the world hands us as much as it possibly can, we have a choice. we can choose to be miserable, or we can choose happiness. regardless of what anyone else may say or think, the choice is still ours.

giving and helping others helps us get out of our own head... by planting and sowing seeds of kindness and generosity all around us, by helping others have a happy day, buy making a difference in other's lives, our own issues start to fade into the background, little by little, we begin to let go of the burden, and our mind focuses on creative ways we can help other people... maybe it is taking a few minutes out of our day to type something good to someone, maybe it is in sharing our food with a homeless person, whatever it is, we can begin to focus outward, and the powerful forces of the Universe start to eek out the miracles in our direction.

now when we plant a row of corn, we don't get to the end of the row, and say, "WHERE's THE CORN" Do we? No we keep on planting, and we keep on planting and pretty soon, we are not concerned about he harvest, we are only concerned with getting those seeds in the ground, and then watering them, and feeding them.

So focus on others, and keep doing that.

And choose happiness.

I tweet at @Samuel_Clemons

Liz said...

You're right Cryn. I didn't mean to dismiss those feelings - I'm sure it's overwhelming.

And I second M. Almeida's suggestion to locate rage and use it. You have every right to be angry. REALLY ANGRY. This sucks. Use that energy instead of trying to direct it toward yourself.

C. Cryn Johannsen said...

@non-suicidal Liz - no problem. You're just trying to push them to stick around. And we want Liz to help us out, and whenever she is ready.

Anonymous said...

I don't mean to be a real depresso, but I don't even think paying my student loans off will help all that ails me. The fact is, I'm still going to be stuck in a crappy job, whether I have student loans or not. It really sucks. I wasted $100K on a legal education, worked my butt off to get good grades and then ended up with a job you don't even need a college degree to do. I get heartburn every day at work because I hate my job so bad. I do not want to do odd jobs the rest of my life - I want to be in the field I studied! I always think life will be better when my loans are paid off, but I don't think so... It's only half the battle...

Leigh said...

Dear Liz,

There was a time when I felt suicidal, obtained the means, and went to the place I planned to kill myself, a small, remote fishing pond. I was deeply depressed, lonely, in great debt, and jobless. And on that day I had also been drinking. Remarkably, I could not do it. On the worst day of my life it changed. I had a small hope of a better life and that spark was enough to keep me going. It took a while, but hard work and some luck made things gradually improve. My life is much better now and I often return to that place, the pond, to remember how my life changed course there and to feel gratitude for whatever divine intervention happened there.

Hang in there, hold on, don't give up, consider all avenues of help, and find something to live for. I can guarantee that someday you will feel better about everything. Your life is precious even if it does not feel that way now. Liz, I wish and hope for you a better future and peace of mind.

C. Cryn Johannsen said...

@Leigh - that is a touching response. I am so glad that you didn't go through with it.

Leigh said...

@C.Cryn Johnannsen; Thank you for saying that. I am glad as well.

C. Cryn Johannsen said...

@Leigh - of course. I am really, really glad you shared with all of us. I want to post your comment as a follow up piece. It's so hopeful.

Leigh said...

@C.Cryn; please share my words in any way that could be helpful. Each one teach one.

David T. Whealdon Jr said...

Hey Liz,
I have to tell you that I suffer from depression right out the gate. One symptom I have is suicidal obsession. I made one attempt about 23 years ago, and I'm still grateful I didn't pull the trigger. My debt problems are huge right now as I have been out of regular work for over 2 years. My daughter has student loan problems that I cannot help her with as I once could have when I was employed making a good living. I have been plagued by these thoughts again. I have found that I must help others when that happens to escape this form of insanity. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I get help,professional help, as well as a support group. Helping others is the foundation of my life today. I was afraid of facing the future because I didn't think I could on my own, but then I learned i am not alone if I reach out to others, whether for help for me to help them.
I am thinking of you and hope you reach out for what you need.
Love,
David

C. Cryn Johannsen said...

@Leigh - thanks so much. I'm really appreciative!

@David - wow! That took a lot of guts to share. May I post your remarks, too? They are powerful.

Y'all are so inspiring and amazing.

One Who Survived said...

"I've literally decided if I can't get a job by February(That covers Federal, Sallie Mae AND Credit Union loans) I will just kill myself on Valentine's day."

That sounds like the "bargaining" stage of grief. In your case it's a particularly dangerous form of bargaining, because your ultimatum to the world - or in particular to the American economy and the Social Darwinist Eugenicists who own it and would very much enjoy seeing everyone like you exterminate yourselves - well, your ultimatum will inevitably be refused.

My suggestion might sound unorthodox, but I'm 100 percent certain it's the right medicine: Accept the fact that America is in a long term Great Depression, that you will not find any reasonable paying "job" in the next few years if ever, and that the only realistic hope of relief from your student loans is not to pay them off (an immoral demand upon you at this point), but to wait either for omnibus student loan forgiveness, or else the Zimbabwean style hyperinflation that will render your dollar-denominated debts essentially null.

So once you've accepted all of those tragedies, why not stick around so you can watch the bastards suffer for their crimes? Your suicide would only justify their own world view in their own eyes. They believe you are unfit to live. Prove them wrong and stick around to watch them receive justice, either through the law or outside of it.

JDpainterguy said...

Or one can just drink oneself to death. I feel that I am slowly sinking by now.

It is not so much the debt per se, as the debt as punishment for a Higher Ed., and the deep shame that I feel most often.

I mean, to see all the people with no more than a High School education doing so well with families, homes, boats, etc. and for me to be an indebted educated toss off or throwaway, outcast, pariah, reject, loser, bum, n'aer do well, etc. etc.

I mean, let's face it. That's my life now, and yes, I can exist and survive and maybe even be a little happy here and there, but as for the family, house, and all the other stuff, my debt and ruined credit make those things impossible to obtain.

So the reality is that there is no more American Dream for me.

And without being able to Dream in the first place (even if that dream never comes true) well.....you know what I'm saying.

But as for suicide, I have thought about all the different ways.

And what comes to mind strangely enough, is how all those Titanic passengers died: Pretty quickly in ice cold water.

From what I understand, when you freeze to death, it just feels like going to sleep.

But don't get me wrong. Thoughts of suicide are not a statement of intention to do so.

Pere Ubu said...

Liz -

I've been there, too.

A year ago this month, I was dealing with ERS (the collection agency for student loans) - I stupidly let my deferment lapse and went into default, and ERS took over, calling me at my work with a snotty smug attitude that of course I had the money, I just didn't want to pay. I DON'T have the money, nowhere near, and when I DID offer them $50/month until my financial situation improved the sniffed that that amount would hardly cover the interest on the loan - 1/3 of which is "charges", no idea what those are actually for, so a $7000 loan is now costing me $10,000.

Anyway, about the first Thursday in August last year, ERS called me at work... and I just broke down. I was babbling and crying, and was evidently talking so desperate that when I called my doctor (my psychiatrist was on vacation, which didn't help) she arranged for me to check myself into the psych ward.

Locked doors, nothing sharp, the whole shebang. I was there for a 72-hour evaluation, but I ended up being there 5 days instead as it was the weekend. I met lots of very nice people, but I don't want to do that again.

So, now I have a couple thousand dollars in debt from the hospital on top of my student loan debt; and, ironically, I could declare bankruptcy over the medical debt but not the loan that sent me there in the first place.

I am lucky enough to have a job, but now ERS is garnishing my wages to the tune of $160 a month for the next 5 years or so... which I can evidently do nothing about; I appealed and sent them my financial information and they still decided I made enough to afford it. So now the household lurches from one monthly crisis to another (the water is off at the moment), selling off items to pay what we can, dealing with what we can't afford.

I don't have any bright advice to offer... maybe beyond that suicide is not the answer, if only for the fact that it fails so often; if I had gone through with my attempt last year I probably would have lived with brain, liver and/or kidney damage. And even more hospital bills. I guess getting angry is the answer, though it's hard to tell WHO to get angry at. Sheer bloody stubbornness doesn't hurt, either. :)

Anyway, just my small contribution. Thanks for listening.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Liz,

Have student debt issues? No biggie; just move to New Zealand or Australia and enjoy the rest of your life.

August 17, 2011 11:21 PM
___________________________________

I always wonder why Americans assume that other societies will be anymore welcoming of them than they are of the illegal aliens who wash up on their shores. There seems to be this implicit assumption that you can just pack up your stuff and move anywhere you want in the world, and you will be welcome with open arms.

C. Cryn Johannsen said...

@Anonymous 11:24 Don't make the assumption that all Americans feel that way. I have lived in two other countries, and know how hard it is to do that. (Last year, for instance, I lived in S. Korea).

It is a big deal, but it can be done. I've been helping people work on plans to leave the country. One man is headed to S. Korea in October to begin a new Korea. It's not easy, but it can be accomplished.

Dona Furiosa said...

Liz, I'm sorry I missed this post.

I have considered suicide at times in my life, though not over student loans. Education indebtedness didn't drive five of my friends and acquaintances to suicide, either.

I'm going to offer a bit of unusual advice: Be selfish. To hell with the loan providers or whoever else is making you feel the way you do! Why should they have the power to end your life?

Besides, as others have pointed out, you will probably resolve your situation in some other way. Or it may resolve itself.

But most important of all, with all of your creative energy and rage, you are capable of creating something or making something happen that will be far more important than those loans and the lies and misinformation that led you to them, or what you feel you're missing as a result of those loans and your employment situation. All those loan-makers will ever have is their money and if they don't get it from you, they'll get it from other people. However, your life is the only one of its kind because you're the only one of you there is. And only you are capable of making whatever you make from or with it. I, for one, want to see what you create out of this chaos.

DJ said...

11:24,

In many cases, other countries are more immigrant-friendly than the US. It is no longer true that the US is very welcoming of immigrants.

I have direct, firsthand experience with immigration in both the US and other countries. In the US, there is no way for an individual of above-average but ordinary skill to immigrate on their own. You need the sponsorship of an employer in order to qualify for an H-1B. Otherwise, you need family sponsorship (IR), or $500000 to invest (EB), or luck (diversity visa).

In other countries (Canada, Australia, New Zealand), there are immigrant visa categories under which individuals can apply on their own without employer or family sponsorship. It's not easy, but at least it's possible.

raetheveg said...

Hey Liz,

I understand how you feel, and I've contemplated suicide as well.

However, we let ourselves become defeated if we do that. This cause for student loan forgiveness needs you. We need to keep as many people as we can on this cause in order to have a shot at seeing it through.

If people just start giving up then that only makes it more difficult for the ones who decided to stick it out and fight. Suicide is a very selfish act when you look at it from that angle.

I don't know the exact figures, but the number of young educated Americans who are unemployed and unable to pay their loans, is outrageous! What would happen if every American with student loan debt, just didn't pay it back?

Anonymous said...

I am feeling exactly the same. While student loans aren't my major problem (managed to get a grant for most of my tuition), I am also a recent grad, spent months applying to every job in the city, no interviews, no income, no hope. Every job out there, including "junior" and "entry level" positions are all demanding at least 2-5 yrs of experience. In addition, I am over 40, and in the last 6 months of my education, my husband announced that "the relation ship is over". At least he graciously agreed to keep me around until I finished my education and found a job. For almost a year now I have been living in a 400 sqr foot apartment with the man whom I put through university and supported for 20 yrs, and who now wants me gone because I am no longer a 20 yr old party girl. The only thing stopping me from killing myself is the cat, because I know my husband wil just dump her at a shelter as soon as I'm gone.