[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/04/08/gun.control.poll/art.binghamton.civic.cnn.jpg caption="The site of a recent shooting in Binghamton, New York."]
Dr. Gail Saltz
At least 47 people have been killed in this past month due to mass shootings. Hospitals are reporting higher numbers of shaken baby syndrome and injuries from domestic violence. Is there a connection between this recession and the growing numbers of violent crimes?
Job loss and economic desperation leads to anxiety and even depression. It causes many people to live on the edge; to question whether or not their life is worth living and find it difficult to control their hostile and aggressive impulses. In two of the recent shootings, there were indications that the perpetrators may have been affected by a job loss.
Traumatic events, such as a job loss, can tip these people over that edge. Perceived humiliation – like being unable to support a family – can also create feelings of hopelessness. Many folks are finding themselves in this terrible boat with no source of support. They may feel they cannot afford to get help or treatment for their terrible feelings and some may be unable to ask friends or family for help out of shame and anger.
Additionally, there are people struggling with mental illness to begin with, who – because of economic distress - are stopping their treatment or medications. This can cause an illness to worsen and a patient to lose the judgment. Many do not go back for help when they desperately need it the most.
Families are particularly suffering under the weight of the economic crises. Sometimes such stresses help a family to band together to get through and they grow closer in the process. Other times, the constant fear causes more fighting, resentment of the children as burdens, anger at the spouse for failing to support the family, or humiliation at being unable to care for one’s family. All of this can result in self-loathing and rage at everyone around.
Couples who want to divorce are unable to because they can’t afford to. They may be forced to stay under one roof, just to have a roof at all and this can be a true crucible for growing hate and disdain. And, unfortunately, this can be a real recipe for domestic violence. Spouses are at risk and children are particularly at risk as they are the most helpless. Anger tends to roll downhill.
In many of the recent shootings over the past month, there were hints that something terrible was going to happen. The perpetrator often reveals some violent thought or hopeless prediction of the future to someone in their lives. Unfortunately, as so many people are feeling upset now, this threat is not taken seriously and not reported. In many of the cases there was also known access to a gun or guns…also not reported.
Any mention that life is not worth living should be taken seriously. An untrained person cannot assess which person thinking of suicide will go on to do it. Similarly, threats of violence should be reported to authorities, so that a professional can assess the risk involved. If someone you know is sounding hopeless or feels worthless….they are likely depressed. Depression requires treatment. Many hospitals accept Medicaid or provide a sliding scale fee for treatment based on income. Fifteen percent of people with major depression will commit suicide. Many mass murderers have been depressed for some time before the crime. If we all remain observant, take threats seriously and help those who need treatment to get it, we may yet prevent some of these horrendous crimes.
The economic crisis has many disturbing effects, and an increase in violent crime will likely be one of them. It’s time to evaluate what can be done to prevent this before many more innocent victims die.
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