Economic downturn leads more people to suicide

Kern County Coroner's investigators say they are seeing a wave of people committing suicide because of financial stress this year. Experts say things like unemployment and loss of retirement security are making people feel hopeless and depressed.
Kern County Coroner's investigators say they are seeing a wave of people committing suicide because of financial stress this year. Experts say things like unemployment and loss of retirement security are making people feel hopeless and depressed. 
        
For instance, two months ago police in Los Angeles found the body and a 45-year-old man who killed himself and his family. He left behind a letter saying it was the only honorable thing to do, considering their financial situation. About a week later, police found a Pasadena woman dead in her home. The same day, neighbors say, she was going to be evicted.
        
With more people facing economic woes, the Kern County Coroner's Office says stories like these are becoming more common. "In our investigations, dealing with families, and suicide notes when we find them, there does seem to be a higher rate of suicides dealing with lack of jobs, financial crisis, and loss of homes," John Van Rensselaer of the coroner's office said.
        
Van Rensselaer says Kern County has seen a five to ten percent increase in suicides since 2007. However, he also says the holidays do not contribute to higher suicide rates as many people believe. Van Rensselaer says that is a misconception and the highest numbers are usually seen in the summer months.
        
But experts do say record foreclosure rates, high unemployment numbers and plummeting stock prices are creating feelings of despair and shame among finanically strapped people.
        
"The reason economic downturn is so powerful is that our lives revolve, our core revolves around being able to take care of ourselves and our families. It increases a pressure and an internal sense that I can't take care of these things," Bill Walker of the Kern County Mental Health Department told 17 News.
        
Walker says if you are worried about someone you should watch for a sudden lack of energy or an unwillingness to talk about their financial stress. "Research shows that talking to friends and family, the people that you really care about, the things that are real. That house is not real," Walker said. "What's real are your loved ones and your friends. Get in touch with them. You may still want to call the hotline and we can get all these things linked together. But that's what connects people to life."
        
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, you can call Kern County Mental Health's 24-hour hotline at 1-800-991-5272.
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