Franklin James Cook

The Last Word on the Financial Crisis and Suicide Prevention

In Media, Prevention on January 28, 2009 at 4:14 pm


By Franklin Cook, SPNAC Editor

Other than the Nov. 24, 2008, post “SPRC Gives Prevention Workers Info on Economy, Suicide,” I have intentionally avoided coverage of suicide and the financial crisis because I fear that the present–and rather intense–media focus on the “connection” between the two might contribute to suicide contagion. The Nov. 24 post introduced a user-friendly SPRC document that helps explain “the relationship between the economy, unemployment, and suicide” and is organized into “talking points [that] summarize what is known about these complex relationships.”

For essential information on preventing contagion in a community, see the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s document “CDC Recommendations for a Community Plan for the Prevention and Containment of Suicide Clusters.”

Those recommendations are succinctly summarized–from the perspective of schools but also covering an entire community’s response–in a presentation by Frank Zenere of the National Emergency Assistance Team of the National Association of School Psychologists, titled “Tragic Connections: Identification And Assessment Of Youth Suicide Contagion.”

A seminal document on the relationship between media coverage and suicide is “Reporting on Suicide: Recommendations for the Media.” (This is an excellent resource, but it is a bit dated, mainly because it lacks references to online media)

Those recommendations are summarized in a publication from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC): “At-a-Glance: Safe Reporting on Suicide.”

The three largest nonprofit organizations focusing on suicide prevention in the United States have all weighed in with authoritative (based on science and facts) statements about suicide and the economy. Here they are:

  • Statement by the American Association of Suicidology (AAS)
  • Statement by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)
  • A list of “things you can do to help” from the Suicide Prevention Action Network (SPAN USA), available on its homepage (below the fold under the heading “Listen and Act to Prevent Suicide During the Economic Crisis”)

Some of the best recent media pieces about suicide and the economic downturn (in my opinion … others can suggest additional candidates in “Comments,” below) are the International Herald Tribune’sEconomic collapse brings out resilience in most, experts say,” USA Today’sEconomy prompts more calls to suicide hotlines,”  the Toronto Star’s The myth of post-crash pavement suicides,” the Montreal Gazette’sEconomic crisis takes toll on mental health” (which even mentions protective factors), and a column by David Lazarus in the Los Angeles Times’Social services see recession’s toll.” (Please note that these articles are not referenced because they adhere strictly to the media guidelines–very little media coverage does that, especially when it comes to brief descriptions of method–but rather because they come close to following the recommendations and they cover their subject both artfully and helpfully.)

And the last word is this, from today’s editorial in McCook Daily Gazette, a small-town newspaper in Nebraska:

“Am I my brother’s keeper?” While Cain and God both knew the answer — Cain had already killed his brother Abel — not all of us have answered the question for ourselves.

As economic conditions deteriorate, more and more of us are needing help from our friends and neighbors — and more and more of us are being called upon to provide that help.

We don’t know all of the details of the tragic deaths of a California family of seven, but it appears to be a murder-suicide involving a man worried about his job at a medical center … In a completely different situation, a 93-year-old World War II veteran in Michigan apparently died of hypothermia after the city limited his electricity for unpaid utility bills …

As we read about thousands of jobs disappearing each week, we can be sure variations of the two tragedies recounted above will be repeated all too often.

Certainly the elderly man would have been saved, had someone known the heat in his home was completely shut off. Not all of the details are known in the death of the California family, but intervention of some type at the right time could surely have made a difference.

Whatever the situation, it behooves all of us to keep tabs on our friends and neighbors to make sure they’re coping with the challenges life throws at them.

Even more important is the need for those of us who encounter tough times, whatever the cause, to not hesitate to seek help when we need it.

[The abridged URL for this post is .]

[Editor’s note: Please share this story widely and, if you are so inclined, whenever you read something online about the connection between suicide and the financial crisis, please see if there is a “comments” section associated with it and post a comment, referring to the URL .]

[Related SPNAC post:] “SPRC Gives Prevention Workers Info on Economy, Suicide

  • SPNAC readers can take part in a discussion about this story by clicking below on the red COMMENT box.
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  1. Franklin, is right! Michigan’s economy is leading the country in the negatives, job loss, plant closings, loss of benefits. Our saftey net is bare and streched to the breaking point. Only by reaching out to others making the connections can we all get through this, this also helps ourselves. Stay connected and make sure our neighbors are too!

  2. […] “The Last Word on the Financial Crisis and Suicide Prevention” […]

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