Suicide in Mass. not indicative of economic trend

Nancy Reardon and Stephanie Choate

The suicide of a Taunton, Mass., woman who shot herself before her foreclosed home was to be auctioned should not be interpreted as a sign that a struggling economy is taking a deadly toll on mental health, experts say.

Money drained from the bank during tough times is often proportional to the amount of stress loaded to daily lives, and local therapists are hearing about it from their patients. But while stressful circumstances – like the loss of a job or home – can be factors in suicide, they are rarely the sole cause, said Ellen Connorton, policy chairwoman of the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention.

“It’s never just one thing that drives us,” Connorton said. “It’s multi-causal.”

Pocketbook woes add to stress, but there is no basis for linking them with suicide rates, prevention experts say.

“There is very little research that shows any correlation between the economy and increased suicide,” said Wylie Tene, spokesman for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “Suicide is a very complex issue.”

The main factors are underlying mental illness and access to a means, like a gun, Tene and Connorton said.

Still, South Shore therapists say it’s never too early to seek help.

“Excessive worry can lead to anxiety or depression,” said Philip Quinn, a psychologist at Bayview Associates who said financial problems are becoming a popular topic in his Quincy office, especially among couples.

Budget trouble “really invades a relationship,” he said. “Trying to decide what we need and don’t need can cause conflict.”

But single or attached, no one should spend too many sleepless nights worrying about dollars and cents, he said.

“The longer you delay, you can turn worry and a little panic into an anxiety disorder and turn stress into depression,” he said.

People who already struggle with anxiety are more likely to be affected by financial stress, said Jim Sorensen of Psychology Associates in Plymouth, who has observed these patients having a harder time.

“Any psychology problem can get exacerbated by external circumstances, such as the economy,” Sorensen said.

Nancy Reardon can be reached at Stephanie Choate may be reached at

Tips to reduce financial stress

- Talk to family and friends. Sharing fears helps relieve tension.

- Take a break from worrying by doing something that is physically and mentally consuming, like playing a video game or exercising.

- If money woes are affecting a marriage, work out a family budget to create a sense of control over the situation.

- Get plenty of sleep.

- Don’t add to your stress by being hyper-vigilant about following the ebbs and flows of the economy.

- Talk to a mental health professional