ECONOMIC PANDEMIC: Promoting the physical health of a nation at the expense of the psychological

Covid-19 savagely reveals a little more about itself each day. Hourly news cycles provide spread updates and reveal exactly who its victims are. Our medical community calls them the "medically fragile," individuals with compromised immune systems, diabetes, heart disease, etc. We are discovering however, there is another category of "fragile" people falling victim to this stealthy killer, even if they are fortunate enough not to contract the disease.

This evening I received a phone call from a pastor who shared how he was called to comfort a grieving elderly woman earlier in the day. She and her husband, both in their late eighties had self-quarantined at home in observance of shelter in place orders. The husband was convinced he had Covid-19 and couldn't live with the thought of it any longer. In his despair he took his life leaving behind his wife of many years. He is just one of many who suffer under the mental and emotional strain brought on by Covid-19. These are the "psychologically fragile."

While the medically fragile and their doctor know their underlying condition, the psychologically fragile aren't known until a life altering situation occurs.

While the medically fragile and their doctor know their underlying condition, the psychologically fragile aren't known until a life altering situation occurs.

In an effort to stem the spread of Covid-19 and the mounting death toll among the medically fragile, America's economic engine been brought to a screeching halt. To suggest doing any less is labeled by the media as cold and uncompassionate. A total closure of the US economy for the next three months seems of little concern for those who's priorities are "in the right place." After all, how can the well- being of Wall Street be important compared to the well-being of the medically fragile? New York Governor Andrew Cuomo thoughtlessly stated: "This is about saving lives and if everything we do saves just one life, I'll be happy."

I predict many years from now historians will look back upon this time and ask; "Why were the psychologically fragile less valuable than the medically fragile? Why were their struggles overlooked?" I believe that in retrospect, our reaction to this crisis will be viewed as a time of massive government overreach. As Americans attempt to return to normal there will be no nightly suicide totals being broadcast 24/7 by the media. They will be deemed the insignificant collateral casualty of our war against Covid-19.

This won't be the first time there is a massive loss of the psychologically fragile. Most of us remember stories from the stock market crash of 1929. We remember the legendary stories of stockbrokers jumping out of windows and their bodies littering the street below the New York Stock Exchange. Were it not for the fanciful and morbid imagery provided by Will Rogers, America would have forgotten the truly horrific cost of the 1929 crash went far beyond a plunging market. As fate would have it, Will Rogers was in New York City October 24, 1929 as the Roaring 20's came to a climatic close. He described the events of that day in his nationally syndicated column.

"When Wall Street took that tail-spin, you had to stand in line to get a window to jump out of, and speculators were selling space for bodies in the East River."

Will Rogers was America's humorist. His description of the events of 1929 would forever bookmark this tragedy and gave us a light-hearted way of remembering the loss in a way we could deal with it.

In reality, it wasn't Wall Street where countless suicides of the psychologically fragile occurred, it was actually Main Street. Washington Post columnist Bennett Lowenthal chronicled some of these stories thin his column of October 25 , 1987 (1);

"Ignatz Engel was a retired cigar maker in the Bronx who invested in the market in time to be wiped out by the Crash. On Nov. 13, depressed over his losses, he lay down on a blanket in his kitchen and opened all the jets of the gas range. The next day, the president of the Rochester Gas and Electric Corp., no longer able to endure his loss of more than $1,200,000, ended his own life using -- what else? -- gas. A Chicago dentist snuffed himself with gas on Dec. 12; police said that he had succumbed to remorse for having persuaded his young woman assistant and laboratory aide to put all of their savings into the market in the euphoria before the Crash."

These individual stories while shocking to the National conscience, are but a glimpse of the desperation felt by a multitude of people who took their lives as a result of the 1929 crash. History tells us this isn't the first time an economic crisis has led many to take such drastic action. Between 1791 and 1929 the United States saw ten market collapses. Each time the psychologically fragile responded with despair and life ending consequences.

In 2014, Melanie Haiken wrote a piece for Forbes magazine titled: "More Than 10,000 Suicides Tied to Economic Crisis, Study Says" (2)

Haiken, known for her research on suicides among our veteran population, looked back on the 2008 economic collapse of the sub-prime housing market and the dramatic spike in suicides between 2008 and 2010. Her report focused on the findings of an in-depth study conducted by researchers from the University of Oxford (later published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.) She drew conclusions similar to those of studies conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that looked back at the Great Depression. The findings revealed the suicide rate among men was four times higher than women. The research pointed to the obvious factors of job loss, home foreclosures, and debt. The one startling difference was that the 2008 collapse which resulted in a recession saw more suicides than the Great Depression of 1929. During 2009, the worst year of the economic recession, death by suicide exceeded deaths from car crashes.

We can wait years to examine the Covid-19 Crash of the US Economy or we can draw on history and take steps today to mitigate the predictable damage.

We can wait years to examine the Covid-19 Crash of the US Economy or we can draw on history and take steps today to mitigate the predictable damage.

What will be the consequences of intentionally shuttering the US economic engine? What should we prepare for? According to The St. Louis Federal Reserve there are 67 million American workers "at high risk of layoff." We could see the eventual loss of 47 million jobs and an unemployment rate of 32.1%.

"These are very large numbers by historical standards, but this is a rather unique shock that is unlike any other experienced by the U.S. economy in the last 100 years," said St. Louis Fed economist Miguel Faria-e-Castro.

Dr. Steve Stack, a professor at Wayne State University, has done extensive research on the correlation of unemployment and suicide. At the height of the great depression, the unemployment rate reached 24.9%. He says, "In the modern era, for every 1 percent increase in the unemployment rate, there has typically been an increase of about 1 percent in the number of suicides."

The U.S. jobless rate at the end of 2019 was 3.5 percent with a suicide rate of 14 per 100,000 people. If the jobless rate reaches 32.1%, Stacks model would predict a suicide rate of approximately`` 42 per 100,000 people. If the number of layoffs predicted by the St. Louis Fed report is correct, this economic crisis will make all others pale in comparison.

What separates this economic collapse from every other one in U.S. history is that state and federal leaders hit the Kill Switch in response to medical experts predicting an apocalyptic 1 to 2 million American deaths from the virus. Just two weeks ago the World Health Organizations Director-General Tedros Adhanom was predicting a 3.4% mortality rate (34 times greater than the seasonal flu). As facts break through the hysteria the medical community is beginning to walk back these horrific predictions.

America's top doctor, Anthony Fauci this past week stated in the New England Journal of Medicine. (3)

America has endured much over the past few weeks, but maybe it's not too late to reverse the effects for those who are hanging on by a thread. Let's turn the switch back on and help us all, including the psychologically and medically fragile. In World War 2 my grandparents planted Victory Gardens. They weren't commanded to do that by President Roosevelt, they did it out of love for America and their fellow man. We can save the medically fragile by allowing them to self-quarantine while we collectively meet their needs for food and shelter. We can save the psychologically fragile by allowing them to work and in so doing, allow them to realize the sense of purpose and value to their fellow man.

Moving forward. We have to come to grips with the consequences of irreparable damage and destroyed lives. As summer brings the warmth and sun, experts predict this killer will retreat until the fall. If the virus does reappear, will we learn from this experience and strike an appropriate balance between the medically fragile and the economy? Or will we hit the Kill Switch and plunge the world into disastrous depression. The vast majority of the wealthy endure times like this with little to no long-term financial damage but it's the exact opposite for the poor, the middle class, and the small business owner. They have neither the cash nor emotional cushion to endure another government induced calamity. We're better than this.

Sources:

(1) https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/1987/10/25/the-jumpers-of-29/17defff9- f725-43b7-831b-7924ac0a1363/

(2) https://www.forbes.com/sites/melaniehaiken/2014/06/12/more-than-10000-suicides-tied-to- economic-crisis-study-says/#3b0f745a7ae2

(3) https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMe2002387

Steve Toth is an American businessman from Conroe, Texas, who represents District 15 as a Republican in the Texas House of Representatives.

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Watch the video clip below to catch the conversation:

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