Econo-cide? DC Lawyer Suicide on Layoff Day

Mark Levy, a prominent Washington, D.C., attorney who had reportedly been laid off from his post at a law firm, was found dead in his office Thursday in what police are calling an apparent suicide.

Kilpatrick Stockton LLP, an Atlanta-based firm, said in a statement that Levy, a former deputy assistant attorney general during the Clinton administration who was chair of the firm's Supreme Court and appellate advocacy practice, had died.

"Mark Levy was well known and highly respected for his successful appearances before the Supreme Court of the United States," said Bill Dorris, the firm's co-managing partner.

The reason for Levy's apparent suicide wasn't immediately clear. But, the Washington Post, citing unnamed sources, said that Levy, 59, had been laid off and that Thursday was his last day of work.

Levy's apparent suicide is the latest of several that have been linked to the flagging economy.

With the United States and the rest of the world facing what many call the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, reports of people taking their own lives are rising.

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 acts 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.

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