Los Angeles family is a wake-up call

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One of the most poignant pieces of history I recall learning is how people were affected by the1929 stock market crash: Many of them committed suicide.

While it was undeniably tragic to learn about the California family who died last weekend, as a result of job loss and related economic problems, it wasn’t unexpected. What troubles me even more, though, is the knowledge that with more than 150,000 jobs lost in September alone, more murder-suicides will follow.

Ever since September 19, I’ve been watching the world scene wondering when such reports would begin flowing in: mothers killing children, fathers killing families, or people killing themselves. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know I can’t be the only person in America who’s noticed a subtle shift in society’s stress level.

I think it began several years ago—or maybe I just started looking for it then—when customers began buying their fast food on credit. Places like McDonald’s or Wendy’s didn’t always take credit cards; that’s a fairly recent change in this country. And I’ve worried that paying later for food you eat now was the tipping point for the credit crisis we now find ourselves in.

After all, credit cards have typically been used for people’s wants, not their needs.

So when the credit trend added food, a basic necessity and most definitely not a want, to its list of “must haves,” I became concerned. (Yes, the argument could be made that people who buy their meals, and those of their families, in the drive-through lane, are paying for a “want,” instead of a “need.” And I’d be the first to agree. But at the same time, how many people find themselves at the mercy of a schedule that leaves them little time to sleep, much less eat—or cook—a family meal? I’ve never paid for fast food with a credit card, but I have faced days where the amount of money in my purse is larger than the amount of time left in my day.)

Maybe that’s why I began watching people I passed in the supermarket aisle, at the cash register, or while pumping their fuel. That’s when I noticed something different: They weren’t talking, they weren’t smiling, and they seemed distracted. In fact, where I once found myself talking to other shoppers, more and more as of late, I’ve found myself wondering why everyone was so stressed and introspective.

This failure to connect with other people isn’t a new trend that began with the recent financial meltdown; I’ve been seeing it for the last few years, if not longer. And it’s not just the absence of friendly, even curious, interchange that bothers me; it is knowing that introspection leads to isolation, which leads to … suicide, filicide and stories like the one coming out of Los Angeles.

Psychologists are speaking out now, telling us to help keep each other safe, by being involved with each other; by reaching out to help family and friends in crisis; by intervening when necessary. I feel this is so important that I address it on two levels in my book, Sister Of Silence. First, from the personal perspective, and second, from the “here’s what we can do to help” perspective. So I add my voice to those mental health experts, and implore anyone—neighbor, teacher, coworker, family member or friend—who can help, to do so. And do so now! Don’t think about it, don’t second-guess yourself, and don’t wonder if you’ll look stupid, or risk losing a good relationship. Because all of those things might happen. But they might not, too. And I can promise you that even if they do, at some point, somewhere down the road, the person or people you helped will thank you. If you don’t help them first, though, they may never get that chance.

If you want to learn why men who lose their jobs are more likely to turn to violence, see my article about unemployment and domestic violence. With no sign of improvement in sight, the current economic climate makes it imperative we all keep our eyes open, alert to the chance to help someone else—before it’s too late for another family.

* * * *

My next book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, comes out November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!


Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Categories: Unemployment


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