Troubling connection between suicide and foreclosures
In the first-ever study of its kind, researchers say they’ve seen a “significant” increase in the number of suicides directly tied to the U.S. foreclosure calamity.
Study leaders at Dartmouth and Purdue compared state-level foreclosure and suicide statistics from 2005 to 2010 and found a spike of almost 13 percent at the same time yearly foreclosure rates hit nearly 3 million in 2010. The findings will be published in the June issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
Researchers say losing a home from non-payment can take a toll on mental health.
“It seems that foreclosures affect suicide rates in two ways,” said co-author Jason Houle, of Dartmouth College, in a news release. “The loss of a home clearly impacts individuals and families, and can arouse feelings of loss, shame, or regret. At the same time, rising foreclosure rates affect entire communities because they’re associated with a number of community level resources and stresses, including an increase in crime, abandoned homes, and a sense of insecurity.”
Perhaps not surprising, the findings showed the highest rates among middle aged people between 46 to 64 years old. That age group is particularly vulnerable because foreclosure can permanently alter their futures.
“Foreclosures are a unique suicide risk among the middle-aged,” Houle said. “Middle-aged adults are more likely to own homes and have a higher risk of home foreclosure. They’re also nearing retirement age, so losing assets at that stage in life is likely to have a profound effect on mental health and well-being.”
Generally speaking, most people who commit suicide will show at least one warning sign. According to the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, some of the warning signs may include:
- Talking or writing about suicide or wishing they were dead
- Talking or writing about a suicide plan
- Withdrawing from family or friends
- Acting irritable or agitated
- Being unable to sleep
- Losing interest in things one used to care about or losing the ability to feel pleasure
- Making comments about feeling hopeless, helpless or worthless
- Saying things like “it would be better if I weren’t around” or “you’d be better off without me”
- Visiting people or saying goodbye
- Having intense panic attacks or anxiety
- Having clinical depression that gets worse
“This is a life and death matter,” Dr. Osborn says. “You can save someone’s life by speaking up.”
Dr. Osborn says to consider these actions:
- Take suicide threats or discussions seriously.
- Ask questions. Find out whether they considering suicide. Make sure you let them know you care and are there to help – no matter what it takes.
- Find out whether they are seeing a doctor. If they are, call the doctor to let him or her know what’s going on.
- Encourage them to get professional help.
- Take action. Suicide threats are a crisis that requires immediate attention. Never leave a potentially suicidal person alone, and take action to prevent suicide:
- Remove any firearms, sharp objects, drugs or anything else that could be used for suicide from the area.
- If at all possible, take the person to a hospital emergency room or a psychiatric hospital.
Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, for assistance.
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