Before he died, Richard Pryor had once asked, "Do you know how you felt when you would lean all the way back in a chair, and just before you were about to tip over, at the very last second, you'd catch yourself ? That's how I feel all the time."
And so do I --- I've felt that way every day for the past 4½ years, ever since being laid off from my job in October of 2008. And I'm also dealing with arthritis in my neck and back, as well as atrophy, because of long-term unemployment.
I no longer have a car or a savings account. Most of my possessions were left behind after I received an eviction notice in January of 2011. Fortunately, since then, someone had offered me a place to stay.
I constantly worry about how I will survive without an income. It's a nagging feeling that I just can't escape, although I try, by reading, writing and watching TV --- my only three distractions. But during these activities, my mind often wanders, as I ponder my dilemma.
Not surprisingly, researchers have found that the suicide rate in the United States has risen sharply between 2008 and 2010 --- four times faster than it did in the eight years before the Great Recession. The study also found that every rise of 1 percent in unemployment was accompanied by a 1 percent increase in the suicide rate.
I was almost added to that statistic in January of 2011, choosing that over homelessness (see my post here). I didn't want to deal with the bedbugs, lice, disease, drugs and all the crime that is associated with homeless shelters --- and I was not physically capable of living on the streets --- or living underground in the tunnels.
While unemployed (and without healthcare or dental insurance), I was also having dental problems; but even for the dirtiest and lowest paying jobs, employers generally won't hire someone without an address, front teeth, or clean clothes.
Researchers looked at the impact of business cycles on U.S. suicide rates from 1928 through 2007. They found a general correlation among suicide rates and major shifts in the U.S. economy (ya think so?)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that "suicide rates tended to fall during periods of plenty, such as during World War Two and the decade-long expansion from 1991 to 2001, when the economy flourished and there were low rates of unemployment."
But do we really need to be told these things from a study or a report? Yet, as a society, it seems that we'd rather document the problem rather than fixing it --- such as by creating enough jobs for everyone --- jobs that pay a "living wage" --- rather than outsourcing them overseas to people who are working for slave-labor wages.
As of last year, the suicide rate among active-duty U.S. military personnel had spiked, and was on pace to out-number the total deaths attributed directly to two wars.
Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, called suicides among active-duty military personnel “the tip of the iceberg", and that the unemployment rate among military families is a particular problem.
With the wars in the Middle East winding down, and the upcoming cuts in defense spending due to the sequester, expect more unemployment --- and more suicides.
So far I've been very lucky, mostly because someone had offered me a spare room --- and because I was destitute, so therefore, I qualified for food stamps and Medicaid. So there's a slight chance I might see a happy ending after all --- that is, if the Republicans don't cut off my food supply (food stamps).
I've been leaning back in my chair for far too long --- the daily anxiety is wearing be down. Now I'm just hoping that after 2½ years into the process (and two previous denials), I'll eventually win a Social Security disability appeal --- otherwise, at age 57, I too will be SOL.
* Need help? In the U.S. call 1-800-273-8255 --- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline