I am currently gathering research for a longer article about suicide and student loan debt. Earlier this week, Matt Stannard from Shared Sacrifice interviewed me about the subject.
Since that interview, I've received a few posts from people who have informed me that they fully intend to off themselves (see the most recent comments here and here). As a result of these disturbing posts, I have asked many of you to come out in support of struggling individuals, and tell them that nothing -- not even Everest-sized mountains of student loan debt - ought to lead them to committing suicide. Thanks to all of you who have posted comments of support so far. Trust me, it helps. Several people have told me that if it weren't for me - and others who are raising holy hell about the student lending crisis - they would have killed themselves long ago. So please, if you haven't posted something supportive, think about doing it now. You never know, your own story about feeling similarly could safe a life.
So many people are hurting, and so many people are thinking about killing themselves. These people aren't crazy. Far from it. They are approaching their indebtedness from a rational perspective, and sadly suicide seems like a viable choice. That's not out of the norm. When there are severe economic downturns, people often turn to drastic measures to get out of a hopeless predicament. Financial ruin leads many healthy people to an early grave, and quite often it's from their own hand. As Barbara Ehrenreich stated quite frankly in an article from 2008 entitled, "Suicide Spreads as One Solution to the Debt Crisis," when people feel backed up against a wall, it's only natural for them to say, "Just shoot me!" At that time, many people who found their homes being repossessed chose to proclaim, "I'll just shoot myself!"
After listening to my interview, a reader let me know that they contemplate jumping from the 27th floor of their work every day.
Here's what they wrote:
Cryn, I listened to your interview and cried for hours. I graduated from law school with honors back in 2003 and never found a job as an attorney. I've worked a bunch of odd jobs the last 7 years just to survive. I've been a retail worker, a call center worker, a housekeeper, a dishwasher, and a temp - seriously, it seems like I've been everything except what I went to school for! I know my life is ruined and that I will never be a practicing attorney. I get it, really I do. After all, I'm around attorneys 24/7 in my current job and they look down their noses at me or else just ignore me. I am a loser and no one wants to be around a loser or else they might become one to. I try to remind myself that my life wasn't always like this - that people used to like me and that I had a lot going for me in college and even law school. However, after years of being snubbed and treated so terribly, I have learned to be as invisible as possible and to keep to myself. I'm sure that gives everyone at work a good laugh - then they can say I'm anti-social or not good with people and therefore not attorney material.
I could live without being a practicing attorney but what I can't get over is the fact I ruined my life by borrowing $100,000 to go to law school. I thought I was making a really good investment in myself because I believed in myself back then. I knew I would do well in school, and I guess I thought I would get a job and be able to pay back my loans. How incredibly wrong I turned out to be. Even if I am able to get out of student loan debt, I will be starting over from scratch. Zero savings. Zero retirement. Zero career options.
Every day I think about jumping out the 27th floor window of the office building where I am currently working to escape the mess I have made of my life. I am in so deep now, there is no way out. I used to keep myself up at night thinking about how I would ever pay my student loans off, but now I keep myself up at night, wondering if this is really how the next 30 years of my life will be - always moving from one dead-end job to the next, always being looked down at by attorneys (and even non-attorneys when they find out I'm an attorney but not working as one), always feeling so sick to my stomach that I can't hardly even eat anymore. I used to worry about starving to death if I couldn't afford to buy food if I never found a job, but now I don't have to worry about that because I have no appetite! Maybe I will just wither away and finally be put out of my misery. I really don't think I can keep doing this for another 7 years, let alone the rest of my life. I don't know what to do. While I haven't completely given up, I don't think it's that far around the corner. . .
I'm sorry this is long and depressing, but it's nice to get this all out. I am not asking anyone to forgive my student loans; I fully intend to pay back every last cent I borrowed. I just want to feel like all of my hard work and sacrifice was worth it, instead of always feeling humiliated, embarrassed, ashamed, bitter and angry. I'm so tired of feeling this way - I just want the pain to go away. Thanks for listening.
As Matt Stannard asked, and I'll reiterate, how many people aren't reaching out to me? How many people will wither away, jump from buildings, or drink themselves to death because of their debt?