How to Help Save Lives: Financial Stress and Suicide

How to Help Save Lives: Financial Stress and Suicide | Staying Financially Healthy | Reverse Your Thinking Mortgage Black and white image of a close up of man's and woman's hand helping.
How to Help Save Lives: Financial Stress and Suicide | Staying Financially Healthy | Reverse Your Thinking Mortgage

According to research, financial stress can increase the risk of suicide by up to 20 times. Doctors talk about how financial stress and suicide affect an individual’s mental health and offer ways to move forward and how to help save lives.

Many individuals often have trouble with money. Federal Reserve Bank of New York report from 2022 says that the average American has $52,940 in debt. The study defines debt as mortgages, leases, school, car, personal loans, and credit card debt. 

Many of us are very aware of how financial stress affects our lives. This stress can lead to headaches or stomach pain—but most individuals are unaware that financial problems are a significant risk factor for suicide. Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, a clinical psychologist, and professor at Yeshiva University, says that money is one of the main reasons why individuals complete suicide or have suicidal ideation.

Money problems affect mental health.

Dr. Romanoff states, “financial stress is a major risk factor for suicide,” especially for those in the role of “provider” or who are responsible for maintaining the standard of living of those who rely on them. She also claims that being out of work or underemployed can cause feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and loss. Furthermore, a high debt-to-income ratio is a risk factor for mental health problems.

According to Aniko Dunn, MD, a psychiatrist, individuals who have difficulty paying their bills are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. She also states that depression and anxiety can cause individuals to consider or attempt suicide.

Research has shown that homelessness, unemployment, debt, financial stress, and suicide are all connected. After the housing market crash of 2008, suicide rates increased due to the financial crisis and “adverse economic sentiment, according to a 2017 study.  The Aspen Institute found that as debt levels become more difficult to handle, the risk of suicide rises among financially distressed persons.

Stressors can lead to suicide.

Eric Elbogen, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University, found, after studying homelessness, unemployment, debt, and low income, “that financial stressors play a major role in suicides.”

According to his study, the risk of suicide grew with each added stressor. An individual experiencing all four financial stressors was 20 times more likely to make an attempt.

It will be vital for doctors, policymakers, and the general public to remember that financial stress can lead to suicide. It is critical to explore the link between the two. Researchers anticipate a significate rise in suicide rates following the COVID-19 epidemic.

What can you do?

Individuals struggling with debt, homelessness, not having a job, or feeling like they have no hope should know they are not alone. 

Some organizations provide free counseling to help solve financial problems, like how to deal with debt, make a budget, and stick to it, as well as how to find work, talk to lenders, or get benefits or financial assistance.

Even if an individual has a friend or loved one they can speak openly to for emotional support, it is always wise to seek practical advice from an expert. Reaching out doesn’t mean they’re weak or have failed as a provider, parent, or spouse. Instead, it means that they are aware that their finances are stressing them out and that they need to do something about it.

Talking to a trusted advisor about their debt can also help them feel better because it will give them insights on handling it and help them make an actionable plan they can carry out.

It’s essential to collaborate with trusted advisors to find the right approach. Some ways to handle financial stress:

  • Take part in a support group
  • Talk to a counselor (for mental and financial health)
  • Take classes on how to manage money
  • Write in a journal to organize your thoughts.
  • Make a budget that you can stick with.

Programs are in place to help individuals deal with money problems and burdens.

Breaking the cycle of financial conduct is critical. Financial assistance may be beneficial; nevertheless, individuals who lack financial literacy may misuse the money they receive. Still risking going back into debt, risk homelessness, and staying in the cycle.  Seeking counseling from trusted advisors like mental health professionals and financial counseling is a great step in a better direction. Also, consider job retraining, housing assistance, and debt management.

Don’t Wait to Seek Help

Are you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide as a result of financial stress? Call the suicide hotline listed below, 911, or go to your nearest emergency department. Also, call a friend, coworker, or clergyperson as well.

The first step is to seek assistance. Speak with a mental health professional about any troubling thoughts or symptoms of anxiety. What appears to be an overwhelming catastrophe can be worked on one step at a time. Talking about it with a trained therapist or counselor can help you learn how to handle those unwelcome ideas. Consider contacting a financial professional or counselor to plan potential solutions or possibilities for the future once they are safe from the imminent risk of self-harm.

How to Help Save Lives: Financial Stress and Suicide. Call  National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) OR Text Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.