copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
Teresa Madison forlorn and torn by life's dilemmas contemplates a reality she never considered before. Death by one's own hand may be the latest and greatest in preventative medicine. Suicide can be a cure for what ails a person, or at least many have come to believe this is so. In her age group, more people deliberately take their lives. Only months ago, Ms Madison perused an article that appeared in The New York Times; Midlife Suicide Rises, Puzzling Researchers. Teresa was not perplexed. Ms Madison knows to her core society is consumed with ills. Physical, mental, emotional, financial woes, and a sense of finality overwhelm individuals in the United States. Teresa feels heaviness in her heart when she opens her mailbox and sees the bills. Her empty pocketbook cannot ease her pain. Nor does it alleviate the aches her family feels.
Ms Madison hears people speak of hope for the future. Countless say change is on the horizon. Yet, in this election year, this workingwoman does believe the solutions offered are realistic. She listens to the rhetoric and recognizes the aspirants do not feel the common peoples' pain.
Each of the candidates speaks of the current financial crisis and foreclosures. Health Care is also an issue. The Democratic Presidential hopefuls promise Universal Health Care. Yet, none of the possible nominees propose a Single Payer not for Profit plan. Each candidate expects Americans to pay for the insurance they desperately need. The cost of coverage may be reduced; nonetheless, citizens will be required to pay for the policies. A Choice Plan may claim to make Health Insurance more accessible; however, those who work and struggle to meet medical expenses understand this strategy will not serve them well. A Plan for a "Healthy America," provides little comfort for those who are not fit and already feel the pain of being a bit too affluent to qualify for assistance. "Potabilty" while a wondrous concept is not practical for a person who is uninsured, underinsured, or who can barely benefit from policies that exist.
Perhaps, Americans will not need adequate coverage in the future. If the country continues to experience an economic downturn, people may just choose to end it all. Some may sing the song, "Suicide is painless," as they pull the trigger, pop the pills, or inhale toxic fumes.
Historically, research shows, rates of depression and suicide tend to climb during times of economic tumult.
In an article published in 2005 by Cambridge University Press, researchers compared suicide data in Australia from January 1968 through August 2002 with economic problems such as unemployment and mortgage interest rates. The study found that economic trends are closely associated with suicide risk, with men showing a heightened risk of suicide in the face of economic adversity.
"For some people, suicide is the rational option when they see no future," says Ken Siegel, a psychologist in Beverly Hills. "One's house is very much a projection of one's self. To have a home taken away is tantamount to having part of yourself taken away. There is embarrassment. For many, it's overwhelmingly unconquerable."
In the most severe cases . . . authorities have linked suicides with the financial stress of foreclosures. . .
"Suicides are very much tied to the economy," says Kathleen Hall, founder and CEO of The Stress Institute in Atlanta. "It's a public-health issue."
Teresa works as a Realtor; she has for more than three decades. Ms Madison is well aware of how the housing market affects families. She read the report, Foreclosures Take an Emotional Toll on Homeowners, and thought how true the words were. Teresa Madison saw the housing bubble as it floated through the hills of Southern California. At the time, admittedly, she too was overcome with joy as the ethereal enthusiasm drifted through the air. Only a few short years ago, Teresa was as most in the Golden State were, elated as the equity in homes rose. For Ms Madison, the higher prices meant greater income, certain security, and a sense of stability, or at least that was her hope. When the housing bubble burst so too did Teresa's. Now, as Teresa Madison skims through the pages of classified advertisements in search of another job, she sees the headlines Foreclosures skyrocket 65% in April, and she thinks of how this will further her dilemma. How will she be able to pay her medical bills.
Although vibrant, Teresa Madison is aware of the fact that a serious illness could devastate, even destroy her. The middle age white woman, while successful in her work was never able to save as she had thought she might. Teresa was not a compulsive shopper as her dear friend Silvia is. Strapped with debt, Silvia slit her throat and every other part of her body. Depression or the drugs her physician prescribed almost did Silva in. While others may think Teresa has reason to resort to drastic measure, Ms Madison never would. Her faith in the Lord and her love for her family sustains her.
Teresa has two children that need her. Her daughters are adults now, and one would presume they could take care of themselves. However, Tammy needs more than merely emotional support. She needs someone to take her from doctor's appointment to surgeries. Trips to the drug store are numerous and while Tammy drives, she is not always able to get into her automobile and travel from home to the pharmacy. Movement is not easy, although Teresa daughter tries. Mostly, Miss Madison cries out in pain. Much of her distress is caused by guilt. The rest is all too real.
Tammy had tumors as a child; one was in her brain. Her thyroid was also a concern. Ultimately, the gland was totally removed. The younger woman is affected by other illnesses. None are observable in a casual exchange. However, health issues are omnipresent in the younger woman's day. Nights are not better. Indeed, as the sky grows dark, so too does Tammy's demeanor.
The medication necessary for survival slowly took Tammy's life. The girl, now near forty still breathes, and mentally, she is extremely active. However, with each twinge Tammy twists and turns. Her every moment is as torture.
As a lass, Tammy was told the drugs she needed would add pounds to her posterior. Her legs and arms would swell. The small frame she once had would be forced to carry quite a load. She did not imagine what would actually occur.
Serious weight gain placed pressure on Tammy's spine. Today, the vertebrae break easily and often. Stress fractures fill the severely ill woman's medical files.
Excessive amounts of cortisol have helped Tammy to exist. Yet, the side effects have lessened her quality of life. Her teeth deteriorated. Recently, they were all pulled. Dentures are in Tammy's near future. Before her fortieth birth date, she will be fitted with porcelain plates. Might Tammy or her Mom find a better policy to cover the burgeoning costs? Is this family underinsured? Perhaps, but most, if not all insurers consider preexisting conditions. Pre, post, present . . .
Tammy circumstances have been a constant in Teresa's life. She works and worries how will she continue too pay the price. Hospital invoices pour in, just as they did when times were good. Even when Ms Madison's earnings were greater, she was never able to afford a home. She helped others buy beautiful abodes and sell these stately properties. Still Teresa could never save enough to secure a down payment. Frugal as she is financial stability has escaped Teresa Madison.
Since the subprime mortgage meltdown altered her ability to make money, Teresa has fallen behind in her rent. A landlord who loved her, and whose house Teresa and Tammy had lived in for more than a decade finally insisted the Madison's must move. Teresa was grateful; the owner of the property considered all the upgrades Teresa had done and subtracted the cost from the amount owed.
Ms Madison with all her connections was temporarily able to secure another rental apartment; however, the stairs were a problem. Tammy could not climb these. A third residence was found. Still the two women once more were evicted. No matter how much money Teresa brought in, it never seemed enough. She was able to stay in a neighborhood that suffered little from the foreclosure catastrophe. However, Tammy's circumstances and hence the cost worsened.
Days ago, as Teresa pondered what would she do next she read the account . . .
On a brisk day last fall in Prineville, Ore., Raymond and Deanna Donaca faced the unthinkable: They were losing their home to foreclosure and had days to move out.
For more than two decades, the couple had lived in their three-level house, where the elms outside blazed with yellow shades of fall and their four golden retrievers slept in the yard. The town had always been home, with a lazy river and rolling hills dotted by gnarled juniper trees.
Yet just before lunch on Oct. 23, the Donacas closed all their home's doors except the one to the garage and left their 1981 Cadillac Eldorado running. Toxic fumes filled the home. When sheriff's deputies arrived at about 1 p.m., they found the body of Raymond, 71, on the second floor along with three dead dogs. The body of Deanna, 69, was in an upstairs bedroom, close to another dead retriever.
"It is believed that the Donacas committed suicide after attempts to save their home following a foreclosure notice left them believing they had few options," the Crook County Sheriff's Office said in a report.
Teresa Madison reflects on the reality and realizes she cannot cry. She has shed too many a tear. Ms Madison is left to ask, how much more can any of us endure. Foreclosures and health care concerns are only a fraction of what consumes Americans. Teresa understands her story will not make the nightly news. Few will ever meet Tammy. Neither woman can afford to attend fundraisers. Nor do lobbyists represent Teresa or Tammy. If either of the Madison women had time or energy to travel to a free rally or a town hall forum the chances that they would be seen or heard are slim.
Teresa and Tammy have heard many platitudes from Pharmaceutical companies, private insurers, and even from politicians. Each has received pounds of boilerplate letters. These communiqués explain why Tammy must wait, or why a request for care is denied. Doctors who have attended to Tammy for decades cannot hasten the process. Nor are these proficient physicians powerful enough to alter a reality that enslaves them as well. When talking with many trained professionals in the field of medicine, Teresa hears of their frustration.
Those who believe in the Hippocratic Oath cannot avoid doing harm, no matter how hard they try to heal the ill and injured that enter their offices. Current policies preclude a physician from offering authentic and adequate preventative care. It is just too costly is the conclusion of many. Others note an investment in prevention ultimately will curtail the initial disbursement. Moreover, imagine the savings if the sick did not need to continually spend billions of dollars on drugs, diagnosis, and driving from doctor to doctor. Oh, how Tammy and Teresa would be blissful if they were not led by symptoms and side effects. The quality of life might have been different if much had been done differently and early on. At least thoughts of how death might relieve fiscal and physical trauma would have been diminished.
Doctors may not openly speak of how they too suffer when a patient passes or is parallelized by pain, However, quietly, on occasion, a practitioner may mention how he or she is hurt by the current structure. Had Tammy been more than a patient, in pain, and only assigned minutes to consult with a specialist, she may have seen the literature. In 2003, The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released a Proposal of the Physicians' Working Group for Single-Payer National Health Insurance, which advocates that American policymakers adopt a truly Universal and not for profit plan.
Some say a Single Payer Not For Profit Health Care system will cause delays, and lessen the quality of treatment. The Madison's muse how might that be possible. Each day they wait and wonder, when will the doctor see them. How many more months will slip away before a surgeon is given permission to perform a necessary operation.
As Teresa and Tammy Madison watch the election coverage, they think of there own. They too are exposed to much scrutiny. The Madison must also address the issues. These two ordinary citizens understand every person has his or her tales to tell. As Teresa and Tammy sit by the television far from the crowds and the candidates, they ask, 'Will those who aspire to live in the White House ever address what affects the average American?'
Teresa, who has long trusted in the Lord, continues to "hope" that he will be the agent of "change." Daughter Tammy, who has also been a person of faith, at times, fears her conviction wanes. Suicide may not be painless; nonetheless, she trusts she can endure whatever anguish death may bring. She has withstood life, a broken health care system and an economic structure that causes much distress. Tammy frequently thinks "yes, she can" live or die.
Scars, Sores, Suicide, and Sources . . .