Managing Economic Stress with Social Support Could Literally Save Your Life.

On July 17, 2015, in a Baltimore, Maryland community, a murder-suicide was reported. The suspect is a father who took his life after shooting his two sons. One son died at the scene and the other son died later, at the hospital. According to the police, a suicide note was left. I stood in front of the television shaking my head in disbelief as I whispered, “not again.” As details of this incredibly tragic event continued to be revealed, an interview with the suspect’s significant other was also aired. She spoke of hearing four pops that she first thought may have been fireworks but she realized that they came from the home. She went upstairs to find a scene that no one should ever have to face. As she spoke, she stressed that her significant other was a great father to his sons and a good man. She said that he had struggled to find full-time work since 2009, which created financial hardships and depression. This included a layoff two years ago and a layoff from a temporary position one week prior to the murder-suicide, according to the Baltimore Sun. As I listened to the details of this tragedy, the news reporter also mentioned that the suspect was very well educated, with a Ph.D. in organizational development. One of the comments that the significant other of the father made was that they would tell each other, “I love you,” each night before going to bed. She said, though, that the night before the shooting was “a little different” and that she should have honed in to it. Sometimes, the clues of desperation and hopelessness can be incredibly subtle, even for a loved one to recognize.

I wrote about the importance of social support last winter, as it relates to managing economic stress more effectively. As a result of hearing about this horrible tragedy that occurred last week, I was compelled to revisit the topic of social support. In doing so, I make no claim that I know the details of this tragedy other than what has been reported in the news. I also do not know what sources of social support that the father may have pursued or accepted, including social support from his significant other or, if the father may have been affected by mental health challenges that were more significant than depression.

In the February 2015 article, one of the realities that I mentioned for people who are looking for work is managing being left alone with their thoughts because everyone else is at work. I also stated that men can be particularly affected by joblessness because they have a greater tendency, compared to women, to internalize and not communicate their feelings when their ability to “provide and protect” has been compromised. I just wonder if this man had someone with whom he could speak about the economic stress in his life without feeling that he was being judged. I just wonder if he realized that his inability to find stable work that was commensurate with his level of education and years of experience was probably not an indictment of him but rather an indictment of an economic landscape that continues to be destabilized for millions of workers, in spite of the narrative of economic recovery. I just wonder if anyone was able to look him in his eyes and say just hold on for one more hour, just hold on for one more day. I just wonder if anyone knew how dire the situation, as he may have perceived it, had become.

If you or someone that you love or know is being affected by economic stress, good sources of social support can include: (1) your spouse; (2) your partner; (3) a family member or friend that you can trust; (4) a person from the faith community; or (5) a social support group. The key is to talk to someone who can provide support that is compassionate yet objective, to help you manage the economic stress more effectively by focusing on you, not her/him, and who will give you their undivided attention. The social support that you receive should also help to raise your spirits, not increase your anxiety. So, it’s very important to choose the source of your social support wisely. But, you must be willing to come out of your comfort zone and ask for help.

If the situation is worse and you or someone that you know may be contemplating thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. There is help available to you. You CAN do this because your life and the lives of those whom you love most may depend upon it.

Dr. Rob

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