When Debt Leads to Suicide

Often, suicides are inexplicable. The reason for some suicides, however, is black and white…and red. How does debt get so bad that death is the only escape?

Often, suicides are inexplicable. The reason for some suicides, however, is black and white…and red. How does debt get so bad that death is the only escape?

The eye-popping documentary about debt in America, Maxed Out, tells the stories of three Americans driven to suicide by credit card debt. Two of the suicide victims were college students.

Unfortunately, these victims are not alone.

In 1997, the New York Times reported David Dwork, Major of Mahwah, N.J., killed himself in 1997 due to large consumer debt.

More recently, the Consumerist reported on a woman driven to suicide by aggressive collection calls.

Consumerist also cites a Lending Tree survey in which 20% of respondents believed that death was the only way they would get out of debt.

Can you blame them?

Lenders continue to flood our inboxes with new credit offers. Credit cards are signing up 18-year old college students for unlimited amounts of credit with no regard for their income or ability to repay debts.

The credit card banks have merged into a handful of bloodsucking monopolies controlling not only your credit cards, but the usurious check-cashing/payday lending and sub-prime mortgage industries as well.

And as Maxed Out artfully illustrates, the lenders own Washington, too, successfully passing the bankruptcy reform act last year. That law took the bankruptcy option away for most of the indebted. What other options do they have?

Maybe suicide.

But suicides caused by consumer debts are only a canary in the coal mine. Debt has us, as a nation, in big trouble.

Our government is incapable of responding to a national disaster, sustaining social security, or providing affordable, universal health care, yet we are spending billions of dollars that we don’t have to send our servicemen into harm’s way to fight a war that wasn’t needed, wasn’t wanted, and is impossible to win.

But most alarmingly, the United States government is allowing its middle-class—and the American dream—to all but disappear.

There will always be the very rich and the very poor. But the prosperity of a nation should not be judged by how much money is at the top, or how few people live at the bottom, but by how many people live comfortably and happily in the middle.

We are becoming a nation of haves and have-nots, and debt is to blame.

Yes, consumers need to be educated on how to use debt responsibly and avoid getting over their heads.

But most importantly, corporations cannot be allowed to continue to enjoy obscene profits by willfully and deceitfully destroying the lives of the lower- and middle-class.

It’s our responsibility as a nation to prevent cycles of debt that lead to bankruptcy and even suicide.

Other people’s debt may not seem like our problem, but the future of our nation depends on it.

Earn and save more with our free course:

What would you do with more money in your bank account? Join over 15,537 other young professionals receiving our best money hacks to get out of debt by 30, increase your income (starting this year) and invest for financial freedom.

100% free! I will NOT spam you and I will NOT share your email.

About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


  1. Are we individual or social?

    The US has been stressing our individual nature, our freedom, in particular that of business, to live by our own rules…

    In Europe, with the welfare state, the stress was on the social nature, becasue as you say in the ending, “our country” is a social statement.

    Can’t have it all… Either you let your children play with fire and get burned, or you give them a good smack the first time so they don’t do it a second time…

    Neither the US or Europe have a way out to this dilema… a mix of the two…

  2. I always love the presumption that those in debt “overspent” or didn’t “live within their means”, but how often is it that in practical matters, debt is simply not a choice. There is no incentive for health care providers to charge an amount that is affordable for the patient to pay. So they take every possible measure to rack up charges for their patients. If the medical care was provided for your spouse or child you are stuck with the bill often times without any consent or negotiation, backed by state law. Of course I have health insurance, but sooner or later, the doctors and hospitals will find a way to stick it to you, or the insurance companies will find a way to skirt the only responsibility they have – which is to PAY for medically necessary care. So when my family sees the doctor that contracts with the insurance company and that doctor provides care which he says is “medically necessary”, how is it that the patient’s family owes the doctor out of pocket when an unnamed employee for the insurance company decides weeks after the fact from an undisclosed location that the care billed for was “not medically necessary”? Why isn’t this left as an internal dispute between the insurance company and their in-network doctor? And heaven forbid you ever have to protect your family’s rights in the US court system. Between court costs and attorney’s fees, a good paying job and all the frugality in the world isn’t going to be enough to spare you from the doctors and the lawyers. They don’t have yachts, mansions, and Lamborghinis because they work so hard, it’s because YOU work so hard. When you have to pay and you have no choice, the theory of the “free market” collapses onto itself. Our economy consists of producers, drainers, and takers. If you want to be rich, you just have to be a taker and take from the producers and damn the drainers. Now, guess which party it is that pushes to eliminate the bankruptcy option, caps malpractice suits, bails out bankers, cuts benefits to children, the disabled, and the elderly, exploits and distorts religion to win elections, and has millions of struggling middle-class Americans actually believing that over taxation of the rich is the cause of their problems? Americans wouldn’t believe that we live in a fascist state if Hitler and Mussolini rose from the dead and came here to carry out these acts in person. I’m not saying that Democrats are any better, but we, the people, need to take this country back.

  3. Gary M Franklin Sr says:

    I as a teenager in the 1950’s have debt with debt colletors on the phone for my Mother and step-father that could not read or write, a salesmans dream come true. Now after over 46 years I have allowed my wife and I $55.000 of that is credit cards. We have 5 grown children thank God. If the kids were still around we could not begin to Exsist at all. My wife has emphysema and we both are 72 years old, she had to quit work for health reasos and I was involuntarily retired so we only have Social Security for income and we did own our home but not any more. So murder, SUICDE looks very inviting every hour that goes by. When you reach the age we are you should be but to death, because soceity has no use for you anymore your just a burden. The young ones will get their turn one day and then they will know how their parents felt. 11/6/2010

  4. when was this article published?

Speak Your Mind