Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Freddie Mac, Towson Murder-Suicide; When Recesssion Stress Gets Deadly

April 22, 2009 12:51 PM

It's been a fear since the economic tailspin began: that some people would be so battered by the crisis -- financially and emotionally -- that they might turn to drastic measures.

This morning the acting CFO of Freddie Mac hanged himself in his Virginia home; the day before yesterday a man who was deeply in debt killed his wife, two daughters and then himself in a Maryland hotel.

We know that millions of Americans have lost their jobs, had their homes foreclosed, lost their health insurance, seen their 401Ks shredded, and so on. It stands to reason that the emotional strain of even one such calamity – not to mention the combination – is very, very high. But what drives the distressed to violence?

No attempt at hard and fast answers here -- only some useful analysis from our polling pro Gary Langer:
Per our last ABC/Post poll, one in three Americans report "serious stress" as a result of the current economic situation.

14. Is the current economic situation a cause of stress in your life, or not? (IF YES) Is it a cause of serious stress, or stress, but not serious?
--- Yes, cause of stress -- Not a cause No
NET Serious Not serious of stress opinion
3/29/09 61 33 28 39 *
2/22/09 57 27 30 43 0

And -- from the ABC News medical unit:

The CDC does not have recent national statistics on suicide. Two months ago, a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration official told us the federal government has noted a "dramatic increase" in the number of calls to the national Suicide Prevention Resource Hotline. The hotline links callers to crisis centers in their areas.

There's a "strong suspicion" this is due to the economy. First, there's "quite a bit of anecdotal evidence." Also, some local centers in the network have reported economic factors playing a greater role in crisis calls. Dr. Richard McKeon, SAMHSA's suicide expert, says there's no direct link between unemployment and suicide but any kind of severe stress can spark feelings of deep despair.

Last month, SAMHSA posted a webpage with advice on coping with financial stress.

The CDC told us: "In regards to suicides possibly linked to the economy. Suicide is a multi-complex behavior and there can be multiple factors that play a role in a suicide death or attempt. Certainly, major life changes may have an impact. However, CDC does not have specific research which examines suicide and the economy."

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