Econo-cide: Financial Woes Turn Deadly

When a major financial setback hits, some turn to family and friends for support. Others suffer silently, struggling with stress and, in some cases, clinical depression. Still others resort to dangerous vices like alcohol abuse and drug use.

And then there are those who do the unthinkable -- killing themselves and, in rare cases, their loved ones.

Today, with the United States and the rest of the world facing what many call the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, a disturbing number of people are choosing to do the unthinkable.

From California to Massachusetts, several recent suicides and shootings are being linked to people who just lost their jobs or their homes. Meanwhile, the recent suicides of at least three prominent foreign businessmen have been blamed on financial losses.

"There is very clearly a relationship between macroeconomic conditions and suicide," said Steven Garlow, the chief of psychiatry at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. "In times of financial hardship, financial distress, upheaval, there is an increase in suicide."

But experts also agree that cases of violent crime spurred by economic stress are very rare.

For the most part, humans are resilient and most have the ability to deal with life's stresses no matter how insurmountable they may seem, said Kim Lebowitz, an assistant professor of surgery and psychiatry at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and also the hospital's director of cardiac behavioral medicine.

"But in a severe situation when a person is so unable to cope they do something extraordinarily drastic," she said.

People having trouble coping should seek professional help, psychiatrists say, but these days, getting that help may be harder than ever.

As layoffs continue nationwide, more people are losing their health coverage, including mental health benefits. Public mental health resources also are being strained as cash-strapped states cut budgets.

"When people need the resources, they become less available because of the economic circumstances," Garlow said.

Feeling Overwhelmed

Garlow said that people who commit suicide often feel overwhelmed in the moments before their fateful decision.

"Suddenly killing oneself seems to make sense as a way of stopping that sense of desperation, of being overwhelmed," he said.

The same may be true in the case of familicide -- killing one's family members.

Bruce Jeffrey Pardo killed nine people during a Christmas eve party at the home of his former in-laws in Covina, Calif. Pardo, who was unemployed and having financial problems, later fatally shot himself.

Police said that Pardo targeted his ex-wife's family after a bitter divorce, but that his marriage wasn't the only thing that had fallen apart in his life.

Pardo had been laid off from his job as an aerospace engineer in July. He wrote in court documents, The Associated Press reported, that he had been denied unemployment, received no severance package from his employer, was falling behind on his monthly expenses and was "desperately seeking" work.

" 'I'm going to end everybody's suffering,' is probably the thought process," Garlow said.

That may have been the case with Ervin Lupoe, a 40-year-old father from Wilmington, Calif. On Tuesday, Lupoe shot his five children and his wife before turning the gun on himself.

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