Student Loan Debt Spurring Record Number Of Suicides

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    (NEW YORK) MintPress – As President Obama hits the road for his first campaign bus tour of the 2012 election season, one of the issues he is likely to address is student loan debt and whether the government should step in to ease the tremendous burden on both pocketbooks and lives.

    Federal and private student loan debt surpassed credit card debt for the first time in 2010 and is expected to hit $1 trillion this year. At the same time, as graduates incur record high debt — $25,000 on average — many cannot find work because of the weak jobs market and are unable to pay back what they owe.

    And the number of defaults is soaring. According to the Department of Education (DOE), among recent graduates who began repayments in 2009, 8.8 percent had already defaulted on their federal loans. That compares to 7 percent in 2008.

    Tragically, the number of student loan related suicides is climbing as well. “Suicide is the dark side of the student lending crisis,” says Cryn Johanssen, Founder and Executive Director of All Education Matters.

    “The public needs to be aware of how bad things have gotten for student loan debtors. This is a national emergency and it needs to be solved now.”


    Anecdotal evidence

    Johanssen titled one of her blogs “Suicide Among Student Debtors: Who’s Thought About It?” and says she was stunned by the responses.

    “I was very actively looking into suicide until I got on anti-depressants. Now I have to take happy pills every day to keep the suicidal urges at a minimum level,” wrote one person.

    “You are correct to ask the question. Many of the folks who are incredibly deep in law school debt will end up killing themselves. I think, in the next 1-3 years, we are going to see absolutely massive numbers of law school graduate suicides.”

    Said another: “Yes, I thought about suicide a lot over the past few years. I take anti-depressants and I had been smoking cigarettes for months but I did end up quitting. The big issue with that is I want to be an opera singer so smoking was my way of giving up. I’m trying to do what I can to get through this… and praying for an answer.”

    One person wrote, “I think about jumping from the 27th floor window of my office every day.” Another  claimed that prior to writing his comment, he had been sitting in his running car with the garage door shut.

    There have been similar responses to postings by a group who call themselves the Scambloggers. One came from a man who identified himself as Jordan and described his plan to light himself on fire.

    “I plan to douse myself and light myself aflame on the Capitol steps, to draw attention to the dire situation of the millions of indentured educated citizens who, like me, have no options, plus a predatory banking system coming after us,” he wrote. “I will be setting myself on fire, and the student debt debacle will hopefully come to the forefront of public consciousness.”

    While there is no evidence that he did in fact self-immolate, financial despair recently led a young man in Birmingham, England to set himself on fire at a claims center after a dispute about his benefits.

    Says Dr. Peter Kinderman, a clinical psychologist who served on the Department of Health’s Ministerial Advisory Group in England, “There are psychological consequences when economies fall into decay. Under circumstances of severe economic stress, feeling suicidal is understandable. It is not a disease, it’s a problem.”


    No legal way out

    Once a person defaults on a student loan, the balance grows exponentially, with interest compounding on interest, penalties and fees.

    And, unlike credit card, car insurance or even gambling debt, it is impossible to wipe the slate clean by declaring bankruptcy.

    “It’s kind of strange that credit cards are dischargeable when private student loans aren’t,” said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of the financial aid websites and “They should be treated the same.”

    They used to be, but in 2005 Congress passed the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act. The legislation made it so that no student loan — federal or private — can be discharged in bankruptcy unless the borrower can prove repaying the loan would cause “undue hardship,” a condition that is incredibly difficult to demonstrate unless the person has a severe disability.

    That essentially puts student loan debt in the same category as child support and criminal fines.

    Now, the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) is calling on Congress to pass legislation that would allow graduates to discharge loans they took out from private lenders, including for-profit companies like banks and student loan giant Sallie Mae.

    Democrats have put forward similar legislation over the past two years but have made little progress.

    “There’s no way to defuse the bomb if the status quo stays the same,” said the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) Vice President John Rao.

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    • StrangeAsAngels

      Nearly 40% of our government’s assets are from student loans. Why do simple protections like bankruptcy and statute of limitations that apply to other types of debt not apply to student loans? Because our government isn’t profiting from those types of debts. Our cutthroat government does not care about the suicides, they care about lining their pockets. No humanity. I know my days are numbered. I borrowed my loans 25 years ago and as I get older and continue to struggle financially, I have zero savings or assets. I feel you, @jaropa:disqus Right there with you. Yes, we made bad choices but so have countless others. Why can’t our government give us the same protections as they do credit card debt? Or better yet the same breaks they gave to the Wall Street banks during the 2008 financial crisis? My debt is more than double what I borrowed and any payments I have made went nowhere. Few people understand just how bad the student loan crisis is. And why does our government continue to do nothing about it? Even the so-called liberals like Lizzie Warren and Bernie the hypocrite? They have been largely silent on restoring bankruptcy protections and statute of limitations and have not supported any of the current bills in Washington.

    • jaropa

      I’ll give you one guess as to why I found this article… I’ve got the same plan, or at least I’m thinking seriously about it. I own a house in student debt, in part, because I dropped out of undergrad and lost all financial aid when I decided I better get a degree in something. Then I went to grad school and that plus finishing my undergrad took place in a large, expensive west-coast city, so loans were the only way to keep afloat with food and shelter. Then I got a PhD (in the humanities… I know, my life decisions keep getting worse…). Now I’m on the job market and there are literally 200-400 people applying for all the same small number of jobs and I didn’t luck out / win the job lottery.

      I’m middle-aged, tried to do something that made me happy, and failed. I am tired. Tired of what feels like a life time of poor career and financial planning choices (though who can prepare for an economic crisis that will totally destroy your field…). Tired of being stressed about how to make ends meet. And call me privileged, but I’d rather deploy an exit bag (google it if you don’t know what it is) than work a minimum or near minimum wage job just to make some wealthy 1%er more wealthy. And I’m sorry, working 50-51 weeks out of the year 8-10 hours a day? Just thinking about that makes me want to do myself in ASAP. I thought in the modern era we were supposed to have 30 or 35hr work weeks?!

      Maybe I’ll luck out and land a lectureship position somewhere…just to repeat the process again the following year and wonder if I’ll make ends meet. Otherwise, I plan to exhaust my current resources, perhaps get a part-time job to extend things a bit, and then buy a tank of He gas, drive out to the boonies, wrap a plastic bag over my head, pump He into it, and call it quits. I have *NO DESIRE* to make any rich person richer, and as a lower-middle class person I have no means to try and start my own business (and what would it be?!) My labor, my mind, my body are worth more than being exploited by and for the richest people on the planet. I’d rather commit suicide than think my mind/body/labor are making some rich white dude even richer.

    • Joseph White

      Bankruptcy should clear student loans. Of course when you owe on a house or car and declare bankruptcy you loose the house and car, so the same should go for that degree you haven’t paid for yet.

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    • Brian4000

      The blood is on the hands of the banks and the collection companies. This is turning into pre-new deal America. Time to get money out of politics and nationalize the banks.

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    • Debtor’s Anonymous is a scam. They believe that debt is a disease and that you just follow 12 steps and wait for it to just magically go away. Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way unless you come from a wealthy family who can afford to pay off your debts or just send you money.

      I wish there were a real support group for people who are struggling, but really most Americans are too busy blaming each other for their financial struggles because they’ve lost their ability to cooperate and work together to find solutions.

    • J

      Anyway, if anyone else out there feels really hopeless sometimes, it’s probably worth a try to swing by a Debtors Anonymous meeting like I did. Take whatever ideas help you and leave the rest.

      It sickens me when I think of how many schools out there may have completely accidentally or illegally hung bad debt on students, knowing how easy it is for all kinds of inappropriate miscellaneous charges to be “mistakenly” thrown in and add up when people are trying to better themselves through education but frankly terrified to look at the bill.

      If you guys find that a college has jacked up your bill and put it on your tab like they did with me, and hung bad debt on you and you can’t get rid of it, FILE A LAWSUIT.

      The threat of bad press might make the college settle, so don’t be intimidated. Rich people won’t donate to a school that has enough bad press for taking advantage of the student loan system, and schools know it, threaten them with bad press.

      That’s my two

    • J

      (continued) anyway, I was disgusted, horrified and overwhelmed and felt like giving up on trying to prove I had already paid them and had not cashed any student loan checks. I went to some DA meetings and started to get an action plan together and finally got, well, suspicious of what the school was doing. It took months to get them to acknowledge that I had already paid and when they wouldn’t take the “check cashing fee” off my account, I checked the nslds site.

      Incredibly, there was a student loan in my name from a prior semester (I paid cash for that one, too) for a check I had never cashed that should have been returned as void by the school. It was sitting there accruing interest, getting bigger and bigger- a loan taken out in my name, the funds sitting in the school coffers. Incredible.

      Hopelessness made me almost not look at the details, but after I reached out for help at DA I was able to face the situation and nail the college for trying to bury me in debt that I did not even take out. My situation is far from perfect with the school today (I fell way behind doing all the legwork to straighten out the ripoff they were trying to pull) but I would be so much worse off if I hadn’t had help.

    • J

      I went to Debtors Anonymous for the psychological stuff that came with debt, and it helped me a lot. This debt can happen to anyone, incredibly, even someone who doesn’t actually borrow money for school.

      I was scared of these loans and was always very careful to pay cash and work my way through school. I have slightly over 1K student debt total and thought I had things under control because I have been paying cash most of the time since I’ve been in school and am paid up in full for the semester.

      But a few months ago the school contacted me, claiming I owed them $1400+ in tuition and fees and a $69.00 check cashing fee and threatening to send me to collections.

      No matter how many times I told them I had already paid and showed them account statements, proof that I had paid, they left an outstanding balance on my account and would send me back and forth from the bursar’s office to financial aid, each department blaming the other and no one willing to do their jobs at all.

      • Had a very bad experience with Debtor’s Anon. It’s a group for people who have a lot of money but aren’t managing it well. There’s no help for those who don’t have enough money to pay their debts. DA as well as UA has a “greed is good” philosphy and doesn’t encourage members to help each other.

    • John

      $250,000 in debt, getting panic attacks and being treated for depression (not working because it’s the loans I’m unable to overcome) with no prior history other than from the shock of the interest holding me down forever. I’m thinking about ending things very permanently as of this moment. there’s no hope

      • Liz87

        At the very least you are not alone in that assessment. I am also thinking of doing the same thing. I just need: time/location. Everything else is worked out and I’m ready to go. If you’re going to do it, make sure you have a plan, and make sure you don’t tell ANYONE or they might commit you to a damn crazy house. And that will just add unnecessarily to your debt load if you are not insured. But if you’re planning on just dying like I am, you have no worries.

        If they won’t work with me, I do not want to be here anymore. It was a mistake even thinking any bank would give a shit about me just trying to make this shithole “planet” a better and more equitable place.

        So done. This “experiement” of life ended up as a massive failure for me. Give it a month John, see where you sit, and if it hasn’t objectively improved do what you need to do.

        • Jim87

          Liz and John you are not alone. I am also 107,000 in debt and suffering from major depression, anxiety and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness as a result. I think about suicide often. I’m on antidepressants, the medication in tangent with exercise helps to tamper the depression. Talk to your parents, friends or someone you trust and tell them what your feeling. They wont judge you or think your crazy. They will help you because they love you. After I opened up to my parents about he severity of the depression and my situation I felt alot better. I know what it feels like to feel alone and helpless and ruined, I deal with it everyday, but suicide is not the answer. Talking about what your going through will help. You are loved

          • Liz87

            I hate to say it this way but: love does not pay for food. Love does not give you a home, get you clothing or helps you pay bills. It doesn’t stop the collection calls or makes bankers return the stolen money they took to the people they took it from.

            The second love becomes what I need to be financially free, I’ll be more then happy to come back into life. But I am quite sure leaving is the wisest decision I could make and the smartest choice when the only thing this planet is run on is MONEY.

            It hasn’t been run on love since this thing was started. It won’t be again until something happens that otherwise lynches every maggot money changer in the world that runs, owns or is a major part of the banking system(of COURSE I exclude the slave wage labor folks).

            • Nathan

              i’m in the same boat. $250,000 in debt and no way out. i love life and really want to live but the crushing stress has me thinking about suicide daily. i’m just so tired. i have always been very motivated and happy person, but recently became clinically depressed with anxiety and am now taking antidepressants and antianxiety meds which has made me feel even crappier. but regardless i hope everyone facing this issue stays strong and just hang in there one day at a time. do whatever you need to do, read/post blogs, read encouraging books, anything, to beat this out. life is precious.. even tho suicide seems like the only way out (and i personally also think about it on a daily basis especially with lack of sleep due to insomnia) there’s always meaning to life and things could always change….

      • DDbug

        Please don’t choose suicide. That just is not the way to go. If you have family and friends who love you, consider the tremendous pain they will feel if you choose to leave them by ending your own life. If you are feeling unloved and have no family or friends to turn to, try to imaging the happiness you might feel one day if you were to fall in love or have children. There are ways that you can escape your debt. One route would be to become a medical doctor so that you can pay off the debt. The only other route I can think of, and this may sound crazy to you, but consider become a missing person. Move far away to some place new and exciting and work odd jobs to support yourself. No, it’s not the life you dreamed of having when you were in college, but it is definitely an escape route… a much better route than death. Life is too beautiful (no matter how poor you are) to choose death. Even a bum on the streets of Miami can still enjoy laying on a beautiful beach.

      • mike

        May God bring you some peace.

      • Does It Matter?

        Ill be joining you

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    • InternationalRelationsXPERT

      I constantly think about suicide. My parents are working class and didnt have any money for me to go to school so after graduate school I am living in my childhood bedroom making 34,000 a year before taxes at a job not requiring a degree and 250,000 in debt. When I took out these loans i was young and naive. They handed a mortgage to a kid with no income. Now i can’t afford my payments and can’t get any sort of credit because of my debt load. This is not how my life should have ended up. I want out.

    • studentloantorture

      I think of my loans as “the wheel that breaks the butterfly”. It’s a slow unnecessary painful death but eventually it kills me.

    • Being Me

      With so many students feeling ruined
      and depressed and even suicidal over this, I have come to a decision.
      Since nobody will work with me to pay this off in any way, no cap on
      the interest that would normally be illegal but isn’t because student
      loans are exempt from any laws that might protect the lendee, I’m
      just not paying it.

      Yes, this means that I will never be
      financially stable. That’s the reason that so many that went through
      school only to find that their degree didn’t get them anymore than
      35-40k a year are feeling suicidal with the constant threats and
      demands from Sallie Mae. They had big plans, that now can never be. I
      will not feel suicidal. I will accept that I can never finance a car,
      or a house, or anything. And that is okay, my life is worth so much
      more. I have a spouse who loves me, two amazing children (who will
      not be taking on student loans) and so many things to be grateful
      for. Owning anything much is out of the question, as the government
      will just take it, as they take my tax returns, and will eventually
      garnish my wages and, even more eventually, my social security. (At
      least with garnishment, there is a limit, unlike the amount equaling
      more than a week’s pay that they were asking to keep the loan out of
      default– which STILL wouldn’t even cover interest and I’d still die
      owing thousands more than I borrowed.)

      And you know what? That’s okay. It has
      to be. I have a used car. My clothes come from the thrift store. My
      house is not in my name. But my life is still beautiful and I am
      still so happy and so loved. I have a garden and a well-trained dog,
      and a job where I am appreciated and I am able to help other people
      in even more ways than the job requires. I have fabulous thick hair
      and strong, long natural fingernails. I have a smile that is
      contagious. I can make a thing of beauty with nothing more than some
      music and a hula hoop. I sing loud and off-key, and love every minute
      of it. They can double and triple and quadruple my debt and I don’t
      have to give a rat’s behind. Part of the problem has been that I don’t want
      to owe money, I want to pay what I owe. But if they won’t play fair
      about it, I absolve myself of that moral responsibility in this
      situation. They won’t stop me from hugging someone who is crying, or
      feeling my bare feet in freshly tilled soil, or feeling the sunshine
      on my skin. They won’t stop me from reading, learning, loving,
      creating beautiful things. They can’t stop the pride I feel at my
      children’s band concerts, or the warmth in my heart as I watch my
      husband patiently teaching my daughter to play the guitar, and her
      soaking up every word and then practicing for hours. I’m not giving
      them my money at the expense of my gas bill, so they cannot take away
      my hot bath. They can’t take away the joy I feel when my dog greets
      me after a day of work as if I am the greatest person ever to live.
      They can’t stop the grin on my face as my teenage kiddos watch Tom &
      Jerry and laugh hysterically.

      They can take my ability to own much of
      anything, but they cannot take my life, nor suck the joy from it.
      They can take my bank account, but they cannot take away my ability
      to buy necessities, and even occasional special treats, with cash. My
      life has worth, and I won’t listen to debt collectors or anyone else
      telling me otherwise.

      • InternationalRelationsXPERT


      • DDbug

        That was beautifully written and felt as though you were speaking the very feelings in my thoughts and in my heart. I am 26 years old with $50,000 of student debt. School was not an option for me; my parents told me that was the only way to survive in the world was with a college degree. My parents also cosigned my student loans. I was enrolled in my first semester of college as a psychology major at 17 years old. Not even legally an adult, I was assuming the responsibility of a debt that would take more than a life time to repay. When I graduated, I had just turned 23. I had never had an apartment, a car payment, or a credit card, but I owed more money than I could ever afford with the degree that I earned… but I didn’t know it yet because all of my college professors told me that there were very promising jobs for college graduates of all majors. Now, I pay $400 per month in student loan (with no further options to reduce monthly payment), I live in a low-end apartment that costs $450 per month, pay $100 utilities, $200 car insurance (drive a used car with a bad transmission), and $300 in gas to travel to and from my $10 per hour job. I make $1600 per month and after the above payments are made, that leaves me with $150 month to afford my cell phone and food. I cannot afford to eat healthy, to buy clothes, or to save money for a car or for a mortgage. I cannot afford to save money for emergencies or for retirement. Every single day, I think about this debt, the unfairness, and the devastating truth that I will never reap the benefits (a good job and security) of having attended college to begin with. These realizations have caused me feelings of helplessness, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and even suicidal thoughts. Just like a slave in the days of slavery, I have no choice but to live out the destiny which our cruel society and economy has laid out before me. I will find have to find happiness and comfort in smaller doses within the simpler things like enjoying a sunny day at the park, and if it is raining I will practice appreciating the recreation of doing nothing.

      • david

        thats all find and dandy until they arrest you. there start arresting people that dont pay

    • I think about it every day two masters and it seems a waste

    • ImReal

      I have student loans.. and I havent been able to get a job with the degree that i received. Im considering suicide at the moment. I’ve been apply like crazy but I havent been able to get a job in the industry, even though i feel like Im qualified. I recently applied but they said i was over qualified… Im seriously thinking of giving up… Im a complete faliure.. and I completely understand all these people needing to take “happy pills”.