Sunday, December 5, 2010

Calls to Suicide Hotlines Skyrocket Along with Unemployment | Poverty in America |

Wayne Zickefoose was facing a desperate situation. With an impending foreclosure and a mountain of credit card debt, he must have felt there was no way out. On June 13th, he picked up a handgun and shot his wife and 3-year-old son before killing himself.

The tragedy isn't just an isolated incident. As joblessness rates rise, people are getting desperate. One of the saddest signs of the continuing recession to date, calls to suicide hotlines have risen nearly 20 percent.

We've chronicled how many people have been without a job for over two years, and how companies have begun to discriminate against the unemployed. Legislators are even making unemployment synonymous with criminal behavior, calling for drug testing for people receiving jobless benefits. Add to that serious debt, eviction, foreclosure and the like, and it's easy to see how it has become a perfect storm that is likely leading to rising suicide rates.

Although federal statistics on suicide rates are usually two to three years behind, counting the number of calls coming into a suicide hot line is a much more timely measure of how many people are facing desperate circumstances. The National Suicide Prevention Network, which operates hotlines around the country, says rates of calls have jumped 18 percent just between January and May of this year.

Like Wayne Zickefoose, many of those considering suicide are men, Stephanie Coontz, professor of family studies at Evergreen College and author of the recent report, "The Long-Range Impact of the Recession on Families," told AOL News.

"When men feel that they are financially responsible for the family, the family cannot or should not live without them, so they take them with them," said Coontz. "You'll see cases where people will lie about having a job, or having money, then when the woman is about to find out he kills her and commits suicide rather than face the humiliation. It's an over-identification with the male protector/breadwinner role."

I have to wonder if our legislators knew they were quite literally holding people's lives in their hands, if they might move a little faster trying to pass an unemployment extension and extended benefits for 99ers.

Looking at it this way, our national debt seems small in comparison with our national sorrow.


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