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WHO Warns Economic-Motivated Suicide Will Increase in 2009

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WHO Warns Economic-Motivated Suicide Will Increase in 2009

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The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the number of suicides could increase as millions of people worldwide grapple with the economic crisis.

“There is a clear evidence that suicide is linked to financial disasters,” Director of the Department of Mental Health for the WHO, Benedetto Saraceno, told Reuters. “I am not talking about the millionaire jumping out of the window but about poor people,” he said.

Last July, a Texas woman picked up her husband’s gun and shot herself. She was in despair over a mortgage problem.

A 90-year-old Ohio woman tried to kill herself before she could be evicted from her home. She survived a gunshot wound in her chest.

In Los Angeles, Calif., a man killed his wife, their three sons and his mother-in-law, and then took his own life with a gun. Before suffering several months of economic hardship due to unemployment, he had worked for Sony in the accounting department.

A HSBC insurance executive in West London was found hanging in the Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel. Graduating from Henley Management College in 1994, the Danish-born native worked with HSBC in 2007 and was made head of insurance in Europe and the Middle East.

In Germany, a man who owned a business in drug wholesale and cement manufacturing, worth $9.2 billion last year, died when he jumped below a train in the southern German town of Blaubeuren. He had lost shares in Volkswagen AG and in HeidelbergCement AG, where shares dropped 70%. Just last December, he was negotiating from banks, to which he owed about $6.7 billion, to save his faltering business empire.

A 65-year-old apparent victim of a Ponzi scheme by Bernard Maddof took his life when he lost approximately $1.4 billion.

“Joblessness is a risk factor for suicide,” said Nadine Kaslow, professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University in Atlanta. “The stress is just overwhelming...People are freaked out” (ABC News).

Financial problems worldwide—increasing debt, unemployment, sagging sales, sharp decreases in share prices, among other economic setbacks—are leaving people in despair and are becoming major factors in the rising suicide rate.

“The most important thing is to ask for help,” said Ken Kondo, a spokesman for the L.A. County Department of Mental Health. “Not everyone can do that” (LA Times).

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone calls increased to 50,000 a month in 2008, about 35% higher than the previous year.

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