Sunday, January 30, 2011

Suicide and Murder-Suicides

The investigative work continues and I am collecting more stories about suicide and suicidal thoughts among student loan debtors. This research has led to reading extensively on widespread suicide-murders and lone suicides in the U.S. Many of these tragic events are a result of financial disaster. Suicide as an answer to economic calamity has definitely spiked in recent years. While I realize there  are a number of complex reasons for why people commit suicide or contend with suicidal thoughts, there is growing evidence which suggests that increased stress, regarding one's personal finances, has led to a number of untimely deaths. More worrisome, how many more will take their own lives because of financial ruin?

Harold Pollack wrote a piece in August 2010 about the relationship between unemployment and suicide. Here's the most noteworthy data from that piece:

- In 2007 the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline received 13,423 calls

- In 2009 the calls skyrocketed to 57,625

If you are willing to share your story about suicide/suicidal thoughts and student loan debt, I'd like to hear from you. The subject is serious and sensitive, so I will not share your name or identity with anyone.

Finally, please remember that you are not alone, and that there are resources for you. If you are considering suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline immediately (1-800-273-TALK (8255). More information is available at their site.

Related Links (AEM and other publications  by me):

"Student Loan Debtor Confesses: 'I Think About Jumping Out the 27th Floor Window of the Office Every Day," The Huffington Post (Dec 20, 2010)

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)



Anonymous said...

When my Student loan debt finally grew to the point where it became hopelessly impossible to pay off, I started with the daily thoughts of despair.

The thing is---I'm staring down the next 24 years not just being Poor, but Poor and in very negative debt territory as well.

So much shame goes along with it, and as I say over and over, there is no 12 step program in existence, or any form of Psychotherapy whatsoever that is prepared to counsel someone in this very, very historically unique situation, which is:

Punishment for trying to become educated; for having done everything right (to quote another blogger), and to end up being, in all honesty--an outcast and enemy of the taxpayer and the State.

And then to realize that people are becoming very wealthy off my misery, and the misery of many others like me.

It's a Sin. A Sin worse that Sinning, to quote John Steinbeck.

It is at the point now where I look in the mirror and see nothing but an outrageously indebted, and overeducated waste of life and a bum, wishing with all his heart that he had never borrowed money for a higher education.

Waste, waste. Pitiful Waste.

Anonymous said...


With respect to murder-suicides, (as well as other types of catastrophes) I have noticed that the Mass media has a "Canned" boob-tube approach for deflecting the situation and dealing with it.

Almost inevitably this pattern takes place:

1. They announce that a "Team of Crisis Counselers"

2. Has been "rushed to the Scene"

3. To counsel the "Families of the Victims"

4. So that "Closure" can take place.

5. And the "Healing process can begin."

Over and over, this is how the Mass Media couches it's phraseology.

And of course the newspapers show a few pics of people hugging.

In the meantime, there are bodies splattered all over the place, being scooped up with scrapers, sponges, mop and pail.

People are flipping out, psychologically ruined forever....

And no one cares about the root causes of a society that creates such horrible incidents. (Because the fucking "Healing Process" will take care of it all)

And how great that Katie Couric, or the wife of what's his name that used to hang out with Ann Rynd--the former fed chairman--came out of mothballs, and sporting a new facelift, to bestow upon us the honor of assuaging all our fears.

And not to mention Geraldo Rivera of Al Capone's cheezy vault trick fame.

I realize that these murder-suicides go on all over the world too, so maybe it is just the state of humanity and society in 2011.

What a world!

And to conclude: "Shave and a haircut-10 cents."

Cryn Johannsen said...

@Anon, Jan, 31 - You make some really interesting points about the 'healing process.' While I am sure we both agree that it's necessary to come to terms with the loss of someone who has taken their life or murdered someone in the process, your suspicion about how these events are discussed by the mass media is well-founded. You're right, murder-suicides and suicide in general both occur all over the world (I've been reading about such incidents. Suicide among the elderly, for instance, is on the rise in Ireland and at an alarming rate. Suicides in India have spiked and for a host of reasons. One is related to financial stress, while others are about "impossible" romances). However, we have a tendency as a culture, overall, to only turn to such extremes, particularly that of suicide, when there are serious issues, i.e., culturally speaking, suicide is not as permissible, as it is, say, in Asian cultures. Nevertheless, it's a known fact that economic downturns in the U.S. have a tendency to push people 'over the edge,' and that's what I'm exploring, and obviously from the perspective of those who are burdened with inescapable student loan debt. The mass media also tends to ignore the sociological implications of these occurrences. They prefer to frame them as isolated incidents, and generally prefer, or so it seems, to get quotes from neighbors or friends that sound like this, "we had no idea anything was wrong," "they seemed like such a nice family," "why she did that, we'll never know," and so on and so forth.

Anonymous said...

I think it has a lot to do with what we are "promised" once we get this degree we've paid $20K, $50K, $100K for: a great paying job, the ability to buy a new home, a new car, the American dream. Get a degree and you will have success, you will have everything you want because "you've earned it". This is what is marketed to us by the public school system starting in elementary school; even more in high school; and by every college out there. This, Cryn, is the problem. BROKEN PROMISES. You graduate and suddenly there are no jobs, or they pay as much as you earned before college. So now you have this massive student loan debt on top of your regular bills. Debt you can not get rid of, debt collectors you can not get rid of, and people tend to panic.

Please people, don't surrender your lives to your lenders. Whether you believe it or not there are people out there who care for you and this is the WORST thing you can do, not only to yourself, but to those who love you. Don't punish your loved ones, it is not something they will "get over", ever! There is no "healing process" for suicide. Talking from experience here...

warwick555 said...

You have an established 5013c. This is a great topic for a grant. As a clinical psychologist and experienced researcher with grant writing experience, I say you should go for it.

Cryn Johannsen said...

Thanks, Warwick. I am working on it. Plus, I am having my first conversation with all my Board Members this evening, and am looking forward to discussing future plans for AEM, Inc.

Becky said...

$57 K in debt, no job, no hope! Not much more to say. Anyone who reads this knows what I feel. How hopeless the situation feels.

Cryn Johannsen said...

@Becky - please don't give up hope. Have you thought about going abroad to teach? There are options.