Last month, a 29-year-old unemployed South Carolina mother, sent shockwaves across the nation when she confessed to committing filicide when she killed her two sons because she had no means of taking care of them.
And the mayor of an affluent Dallas suburb reportedly killed her 19-year-old daughter before turning the gun on herself in the face of financial distress, including almost losing her home to foreclosure.
Indeed, these are tough economic times. And mental health professionals report that people are growing increasingly desperate and calling hotlines for help.
Terrie M. Williams, author of 'Black Pain: Real Talk For When There's Nowhere to Go But Up' and a licensed clinical social worker, told Black Voices that today's economic environment is when people vulnerable to depression or those who are depressed need to take the extra steps to seek mental health treatment.
Equally as important, Williams said, is for family and friends to reach out to those who are depressed to ensure they are okay. Looking for signs of trouble and knowing the right questions to ask may help, she said.
"Ask a probing question,'' Williams said. "'I heard you say such and such. I was really wondering what you were thinking or feeling.' Sometimes that just gives a person a license to initiate a conversation that that they wouldn't have because they have always been thought of as the strong one. I've seen it so many times.''
Sometimes all a person needs is an opening.
"Sometimes we think it's none of our business," she said. "If you see something, call it. You could really be a lifeline for that person.''
Some signs of depression include: insomnia; weight loss or gain; forgetfulness; lack of concentration and never wanting to go anywhere or do anything. If a person is experiencing economic problems, her or she should seek help from reputable credit counselors and lawyers.
Carl Bell, Ph.D., a renowned Chicago-based psychiatrist, suggests that the economy is not responsible for the death toll. He says people who commit these crimes are already suffering from a major psychiatric illnesses.
"If you have a major psychiatric illness, it causes people to catastrophize,'' he said. "You tend to think, 'Oh, my God, this will never end.' That is not helpful. You feel hopeless and nobody needs that.''
Dr. Bell suggests seven things that people need:
Create a village of friends and family for moral and emotional support.
Eat a proper diet that includes Omega III fish oil and read spiritual texts, which help people keep hope.
Connect to something good and of value, such as yoga, exercise, book and movie groups.
Develop a strong sense of self-esteem, which is defined as a sense of power. It leads to positive ways of thinking, such as "I may not be able to pay my bills, but I'm with my family."
Nurture good social and emotional skills. If people know how to regulate their tempers that is an emotional skill. If a person knows how to talk to a bill collector without upsetting them and getting themselves into deeper trouble, that is a social skill.
Develop a strong safety net. Have people check in on you to help keep track of your bills, clothes and phone calls.
Minimize trauma. So, a person is broke, but started a garden at the beginning of the summer. They can sell or eat those fruit and vegetables. It's called mastering your destiny.
In other words, don't allow friends and relatives to give up. Help them to "stay strong," as Williams often says.