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784 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
As economy sinks, officials fear violent solutions

Story Highlights
With nowhere else to turn, some people are calling suicide-prevention hot lines

Counseling services are in high demand and domestic-violence shelters are full

Worries mount after a string of financially related violent incidents across U.S.

Texas psychologist says current crisis breeding a sense of chronic anxiety
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(AP) -- An out-of-work money manager in California loses a fortune and wipes out his family in a murder-suicide.

The Switchboard of Miami has recorded more than 500 foreclosure-related calls this year.

1 of 2 A 90-year-old Ohio widow shoots herself in the chest as authorities arrive to evict her from the modest house she called home for 38 years.

In Massachusetts, a housewife who had hidden her family's mounting financial crisis from her husband sends a note to the mortgage company warning: "By the time you foreclose on my house, I'll be dead." Then Carlene Balderrama shot herself to death, leaving an insurance policy and a suicide note on a table.

Across the country, authorities are becoming concerned that the nation's financial woes could turn increasingly violent, and they are urging people to get help. In some places, mental-health hot lines are jammed, counseling services are in high demand and domestic-violence shelters are full.

"I've had a number of people say that this is the thing most reminiscent of 9/11 that's happened here since then," said the Rev. Canon Ann Malonee, vicar at Trinity Church in the heart of New York's financial district. "It's that sense of having the rug pulled out from under them."

With nowhere else to turn, many people are calling suicide-prevention hot lines. The Samaritans of New York have seen calls rise more than 16 percent in the past year, many of them money-related. The Switchboard of Miami has recorded more than 500 foreclosure-related calls this year.

"A lot of people are telling us they are losing everything. They're losing their homes, they're going into foreclosure, they've lost their jobs," said Virginia Cervasio, executive director of a suicide resource enter in southwest Florida's Lee County.

But tragedies keep mounting:

• In Los Angeles, California, last week, a former money manager fatally shot his wife, three sons and his mother-in-law before killing himself.

Karthik Rajaram, 45, left a suicide note saying he was in financial trouble and contemplated killing just himself. But he said he decided to kill his entire family because that was more honorable, police said.

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After the murder-suicide, police and mental-health officials in Los Angeles took the unusual step of urging people to seek help for themselves or loved ones if they feel overwhelmed by grim financial news. They said they were specifically afraid of the "copycat phenomenon."

"This is a perfect American family behind me that has absolutely been destroyed, apparently because of a man who just got stuck in a rabbit hole, if you will, of absolute despair," Deputy Police Chief Michel Moore said. "It is critical to step up and recognize we are in some pretty troubled times."

• In Tennessee, a woman fatally shot herself last week as sheriff's deputies went to evict her from her foreclosed home.

Pamela Ross, 57, and her husband were fighting foreclosure on their home when sheriff's deputies in Sevierville came to serve an eviction notice. They were across the street when they heard a gunshot and found Ross dead from a wound to the chest. The case was even more tragic because the couple had recently been granted an extra 10 days to appeal.

• In Akron, Ohio, the 90-year-old widow who shot herself on Oct. 1 is recovering. A congressman told Addie Polk's story on the House floor before lawmakers voted to approve a $700 billion financial rescue package. Mortgage finance company Fannie Mae dropped the foreclosure, forgave her mortgage and said she could remain in the home.

• In Ocala, Florida, Roland Gore shot his wife and dog in March and then set fire to the couple's home, which had been in foreclosure, before killing himself. His case was one of several in which people killed spouses or pets, destroyed property or attacked police before taking their own lives.

"The financial stress builds up to the point the person feels they can't go on, and the person believes their family is better off dead than left without a financial support," said Kristen Rand, legislative director of the Washington D.C.-based Violence Policy Center.

Dr. Edward Charlesworth, a clinical psychologist in Houston, Texas, said the current crisis is breeding a sense of chronic anxiety among people who feel helpless and panic-stricken, as well as angry that their government has let them down.

"They feel like in this great society that we live in we should have more protection for the individuals rather than just the corporation," he said.

It's not yet clear there is a statistical link between suicides and the financial downturn since there is generally a two-year lag in national suicide figures. But historically, suicides increase in times of economic hardship. And the current financial crisis is already being called the worst since the Great Depression.

Counselors at Catholic Charities USA report seeing a "significant increase" in the need for housing counseling.

One mental health counselor said half of her clients were on some form of antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication. The agency has seen a decrease in overall funding, but it has expanded foreclosure counseling and received nearly $2 million for such services in late 2007.

Adding to financially tense households is an air of secrecy. Experts said it's common for one spouse to blame the other for their financial mess or to hide it entirely, as Balderrama did.

After falling 31/2 years behind in payments, the Taunton, Massachusetts, housewife had been intercepting letters from the mortgage company and shredding them before her husband saw them. She tried to refinance but was declined.

In July, on the day the house was to be auctioned, she faxed the note to the mortgage company. Then the 52-year-old walked outside, shot her three beloved cats and then herself with her husband's rifle.

Notes left on the table revealed months of planning. She'd picked out her funeral home, laid out the insurance policy and left a note saying, "pay off the house with the insurance money."

"She put in her suicide note that it got overwhelming for her," said her husband, John Balderrama. "Apparently she didn't have anyone to talk to. She didn't come to me. I don't know why. There's gotta be some help out there for people that are hurting, (something better) than to see somebody lose a life over a stupid house."

784 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Well, I was having a good morning....
Sorry Highlander. This story just makes you wonder. Seems to me, those that would commit suicide (and the azzholes that would take out their family with them) are a precursor. How long until someone decides, "Why kill myself when I can kill the bankers, LEOs and judges that are doing the foreclosing?"

1,771 Posts
IMO, this is just an issue of perception, and there is no "Financial Crisis Syndrome" or whatever catchy phrase the media will coin.

The whole article reads like the annual hoopla right around the Superbowl about domestic violence spiking during the game (which is a proven falsehood) or the hype about the (undocumented and also false) increases in "Air Rage" and "Road Rage" that pop up in the media every so often.

8,248 Posts
I hear you. The sad thing is they do it all of the time (think Columbine for example). Back in 1997 when I was working EMS in Arlington (TX), we made a run to an apartment on a murder-suicide. There was a husband an wife couple in their late 40's both dead sitting next to each other on the couch in front of the TV. The husband just walked up next to the wife and popped her in the head with a .22lr. He then sat down next to her and did he same thing to himself. The gun was still in his hand. They had been that way for several hours and it was their (grown) daughter who found them. Very sad.

Once people get it into their heads to hurt themselves, they can be like a time bomb. Not so much the ones who cry out for help. Rather it is the ones who never said a word to anybody an you could never have guessed how much they were hurting on the inside to go to that extreme.

784 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I don't know Budg, I agree that the media is sensationalist to the point of rediculousness. But, I definitly think that the economic crisis is at a point where it could boil over into massive civil unrest. Reolutions the world over have started with much less of a match. (Russia's Tsar fell mainly because people got tired of standing in line to buy half as much bread as they bought the day before with the same money.) If OPEC does what they are hinting and cuts production the rising fuel prices in the midst of the current economic situation might just be the tipping point.

I'm afraid of the spillover effect. First, suicides by humeowners that can't see a way out. Then a few decide to take a few LEOs with them. Riots breaking out when a bank shutters its doors and people panic about their money. Where not there yet, but the feeling is definitely in the air and the ole fan is starting to smell a might funky. Just my opinion.
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