Financial Crisis and the Risk of Suicide

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“I lost over $450,000, I cannot pay the bank, I’ll become homeless. Suicide is the only way out.” This desperate plea summarizes one of the top posts a few months ago on a Reddit forum for the cryptocurrency Terra Luna. Like other cryptocurrencies, it recently lost more than 99% of its value.

Over the past five years, I have written several columns and given several media interviews on the risks of speculating in cryptocurrencies. My most recent one generated a conversation with several of my financial planning peers about the recent crypto meltdown. One of them called my attention to the discussions about suicide on cryptocurrency forums, where some members were posting suicide prevention phone numbers.

The possibility of suicide over financial stress is not something I’ve written about for 31 years as a columnist. Yet, it ranks as a significant contributor to suicides, according to Prof. Eric Elbogen from the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, NC. He was cited in an article by Maria Cohut, Ph.D., that appeared in Medical News Today on September 8, 2020.

A quick Google search produced a plethora of suicides connected to the crash in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Those people took their lives rather than face the intolerable pain and shame of losing everything they had financially, facing the humiliation of being homeless, unable to care for themselves and their families, and unable to make good on their promises to repay creditors.