Friday, August 19, 2011

Student Loan Debtors Band Together To Support Suicidal Woman

I asked people to offer their support to a young woman who recently said, if she doesn't find a job by Valentine's day, she will commit suicide.

She is, like so many of my readers, over $100,000 in debt, and at this point cannot see a future. She's not alone. Millions of educated, student debtors feel that their future has been stolen from them. But don't worry, AEM is now in its "big wave" phase, so we're going to get that back, and we're going to do it together.

The woman received amazing responses from people. It made me feel so lucky to be a part of this community. You are all so strong, caring, and supportive. Here are two highlights from those comments of support:

Leigh wrote:

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.
It must be so powerful for Leigh to revisit the place where she almost took her life.

David 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.

 I want to thank all of you for the outpouring of support for Liz. We need to continue having this conversation at the national level. We need to find those who are struggling, and offer them help, kind words, and a shoulder to lean on. While many of you might think of this community as an online group, I have met a number of you in person and can put a profile picture to a real human being's face. You are all real, and in the next coming months I plan on meeting more of you. Just the other day, I was invited to Wisconsin and I think I might just take the woman up on her offer. So, if you're interested in some meet ups with me, say the word. We'll make something work.

On a final note, I want Liz to know that I hope our words have been helpful. Hang in there, Liz.

Related Links

"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 (August 17, 2011)

"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)


Anonymous said...

Here is a link that discusses loan forgiveness programs. Hope you find this useful.

Kind regards, Kenneth

One Who Survived said...

First re "loan forgiveness programs", that's good as far as it goes, but it doesn't go far enough for most American student debtors. What they need is simply omnibus loan forgiveness. That's what this movement's main goal ought to be, total cancellation of all student loan debts, and abolition of the entire student loan system, and absolutely free education at all PUBLIC universities for any (REGARDLESS of "race") who are able competitively to earn a place in a public university.

(Discarding racial preferences would enable legions of POOR "Whites" to compete on a level ground with their "minority" peers, and thus would reduce a lot of the current, largely justifiable anger of impoverished White Americans. And the majority of impoverished Americans are "White".)

And meanwhile, PRIVATE universities could continue to admit any students they choose, while the public universities would become TRULY meritocratic! (Cf Thomas Jefferson's ideal for the University of Virginia.)

Second, a good antidote for suicide - at least for those who are not clinically severely depressed but rather having suicidal ideations, which is the majority of those who think about suicide - is the song "Suicide is Painless" from the 1970 movie, "MASH". In this scene, a Doctor has convinced himself that he's become sexually impotent, so he decides to commit suicide. But his friends trick him into taking a placebo pill, actually a sedative, and then after he goes to sleep, a kind nurse goes to bed with him, so that when he awakes he thinks he's had sex with her. (Any such woman deserves to be canonised as a Saint!)

And the refrain "suicide is painless...and I can take or leave it if I please", is a reminder that yes, suicide is an option after all, but there are other options!

And a particularly funny (gallows humour) moment here, is when one of the Doctors says to the suicidal Doctor, "You're throwing your education away!" HA! ;-) :-)

Here ya go:

One Who Survived said...

Another antidote for suicide is from the book "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner", by Alan Sillitoe, a working class Englishman from the Midlands (you Americans can imagine the English "Midlands" as something like Detroit)

In particular, from the chapter "On Saturday Afternoon":

"All of which will make me think twice about how black I sometimes feel. The black coal bag locked inside of you, and the black look it puts on your face, doesn't mean you're going to string yourself up or sling yourself under a double-decker or chuck yourself out of a window or cut your throat with a sardine cup or put your head in the gas-oven or drop your rotten sack-bag of a body on to a railway line, because when you're feeling that black you can't even move from your chair. Anyhow, I know I'll never get so black as to hang myself, because hanging don't look very nice to me, and never will, the more I remember old what's-his-name swinging from the light-fitting...
...More than anything else, I'm glad now that I didn't go to the pictures that Saturday afternoon when I was feeling black and ready to do myself in. Because you know, I shan't ever kill myself. Trust me. I'LL STAY ALIVE HALF-BARMY TILL I'M A HUNDRED AND FIVE, AND THEN I'LL GO OUT SCREAMING BLUE MURDER BECAUSE I WANT TO STAY WHERE I AM."

Anonymous said...

I am so glad I found today's posting about suicide. I am a regular reader of this blog, but I missed the original posting about Liz. Today's message, though, really rang true for me, as today I feel like I really hit rock bottom emotionally.

I am out of work attorney. I was laid off a month ago from a job I really loved. The pay was modest but I was helping people and working decent hours. My husband is an attorney too. We are both deeply in debt,and radically underpaid, but with us both working really hard and living modestly we started to feel safe and decided to finally have a baby. Next thing you know I am 2 months pregnant sitting in my boss's office being told there is going to me a merger and downsizing but not to worry, I will get a really good letter of recommendation. Fast forward to now. Of course I am looking for jobs, going on interviews, covering for other attorneys, taking on anything I can for $100.00. Meanwhile, every job I apply to I am worried that they won't hire me because I am now 15 weeks and my new interview outfit has clearly been purchased from the maternity section. I can't explain the feelings of shame and worthlessness I have experienced in the past couple weeks. The phrase "better off dead than alive" has passed through my mind more than once. I know that I would never hurt myself under normal circumstances, and certainly not with another life depending on me, but I feel ashamed that I am unable to contribute to my growing family. Student loans, mortgage, groceries, utilities, and now medical bills are going to be through the roof (yeah- two attorneys without health benefits of any kind, this is apparently the norm now). I just wonder how I can bring a life into this sort of situation. I worry that my husband is overburdened and is carrying far more than his weight. I can't stand myself for being a drain and not contributing anything to my family's future. On the contrary, since I was laid off, any paltry savings we had is going toward my student loan payments so that we won't have to watch the principal balance grow with capitalized interest.So today I cried and cried and cried and thought that if it wasn't for this baby depending on me for life, I don't think I could keep going. I am still upset, but reading these words of encouragement and the ones from the earlier post have helped. It is good to know that I am not alone, and I know I am fortunate to be married and have some form of support, but sometimes it is just so hard to pick yourself up and talk yourself into being grateful.

DJ said...

Anon @9:21,

Most states have Medicaid or Medicaid-like programs to provide low-income expectant mothers with free or subsidized health coverage. In my state (California), an expectant couple with no other kids and income between $3090 to $4634 per month receives pregnancy-related coverage for $556 to $834 through AIM (this is the total cost, not cost per month). Those with incomes lower than $3090/month get completely free coverage through Medi-Cal. Look around and see what your state offers; it may be good or bad, but at least it's something.

Cryn Johannsen said...

@DJ - thanks for sharing that information with us. I appreciate it.

Liz said...

Thank you. I am the Liz that left that comment last year.

As you can see I did not destroy myself.

I'm still incredibly depressed, but I found a group on Facebook and joined it.

My heart breaks when I think about how many of my friends will never be free of their debts as long as the corrupt monsters run the Congress and are in the Presidency. They are monsters, and should be chased out with pitchforks and fire, just like Frankenstein.

I haven't found a job yet, and Sallie Mae is still demanding 150 for forbearance, then had the gall to tell me the money wouldn't go anywhere..

Anonymous has no idea how student loans work. It's obvious, because the "options" are for congressional hopefuls or their scientists willing to make anything; and not for artists, musicians, historians, literary scholars OR theological graduates(pastors/religious leaders).

Dischargement truthfully only works if you're handicapped or dead. And that's on the federal side. The Private loans? Nono, your parents pay it if you die.

And that was the one reason I put down the knife on Valentine's day and just cried.

Thank you for rooting for me, but I really can't see any hope at all for the next 40 years. It's going to be slaving away and not doing what makes my soul sing. And that just makes me feel dead inside.

Anonymous said...

Good to see you are still here. hang in there