Iraq War Veterans “Last Words”

“I Am Sorry That It Has Come to This”: A Soldier’s Last Words

Daniel   Somers was a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was part of Task Force   Lightning, an intelligence unit. In 2004-2005, he was mainly assigned to a   Tactical Human-Intelligence Team (THT) in Baghdad, Iraq, where he ran more   than 400 combat missions as a machine gunner in the turret of a Humvee,   interviewed countless Iraqis ranging from concerned citizens to community   leaders and and government officials, and interrogated dozens of insurgents   and terrorist suspects. In 2006-2007, Daniel worked with Joint Special   Operations Command (JSOC) through his former unit in Mosul   where he ran the Northern    Iraq Intelligence    Center. His official   role was as a senior analyst for the Levant (Lebanon,   Syria, Jordan, Israel,   and part of Turkey).   Daniel suffered greatly from PTSD and had been diagnosed with traumatic brain   injury and several other war-related conditions. On June 10, 2013, Daniel   wrote the following letter to his family before taking his life. Daniel was   30 years old. His wife and family have given permission to publish it.

By Daniel Somers

I am sorry that it has come to this.

The fact is, for as long as I can remember my motivation for getting up every day has been so that you would not have to bury me. As things have continued to get worse, it has become clear that this alone is not a sufficient reason to carry on. The fact is, I am not getting better, I am not going to get better, and I will most certainly deteriorate further as time goes on. From a logical standpoint, it is better to simply end things quickly and let any repercussions from that play out in the short term than to drag things out into the long term.

You will perhaps be sad for a time, but over time you will forget and begin to carry on. Far better that than to inflict my growing misery upon you for years and decades to come, dragging you down with me. It is because I love you that I can not do this to you. You will come to see that it is a far better thing as one day after another passes during which you do not have to worry about me or even give me a second thought. You will find that your world is better without me in it.

I really have been trying to hang on, for more than a decade now. Each day has been a testament to the extent to which I cared, suffering unspeakable horror as quietly as possible so that you could feel as though I was still here for you. In truth, I was nothing more than a prop, filling space so that my absence would not be noted. In truth, I have already been absent for a long, long time.

My body has become nothing but a cage, a source of pain and constant problems. The illness I have has caused me pain that not even the strongest medicines could dull, and there is no cure. All day, every day a screaming agony in every nerve ending in my body. It is nothing short of torture. My mind is a wasteland, filled with visions of incredible horror, unceasing depression, and crippling anxiety, even with all of the medications the doctors dare give. Simple things that everyone else takes for granted are nearly impossible for me. I can not laugh or cry. I can barely leave the house. I derive no pleasure from any activity. Everything simply comes down to passing time until I can sleep again. Now, to sleep forever seems to be the most merciful thing.

You must not blame yourself. The simple truth is this: During my first deployment, I was made to participate in things, the enormity of which is hard to describe. War crimes, crimes against humanity. Though I did not participate willingly, and made what I thought was my best effort to stop these events, there are some things that a person simply can not come back from. I take some pride in that, actually, as to move on in life after being part of such a thing would be the mark of a sociopath in my mind. These things go far beyond what most are even aware of.

To force me to do these things and then participate in the ensuing coverup is more than any government has the right to demand. Then, the same government has turned around and abandoned me. They offer no help, and actively block the pursuit of gaining outside help via their corrupt agents at the DEA. Any blame rests with them.

Beyond that, there are the host of physical illnesses that have struck me down again and again, for which they also offer no help. There might be some progress by now if they had not spent nearly twenty years denying the illness that I and so many others were exposed to. Further complicating matters is the repeated and severe brain injuries to which I was subjected, which they also seem to be expending no effort into understanding. What is known is that each of these should have been cause enough for immediate medical attention, which was not rendered.

Lastly, the DEA enters the picture again as they have now managed to create such a culture of fear in the medical community that doctors are too scared to even take the necessary steps to control the symptoms. All under the guise of a completely manufactured “overprescribing epidemic,” which stands in stark relief to all of the legitimate research, which shows the opposite to be true. Perhaps, with the right medication at the right doses, I could have bought a couple of decent years, but even that is too much to ask from a regime built upon the idea that suffering is noble and relief is just for the weak.

However, when the challenges facing a person are already so great that all but the weakest would give up, these extra factors are enough to push a person over the edge.

Is it any wonder then that the latest figures show 22 veterans killing themselves each day? That is more veterans than children killed at Sandy Hook, every single day. Where are the huge policy initiatives? Why isn’t the president standing with those families at the state of the union? Perhaps because we were not killed by a single lunatic, but rather by his own system of dehumanization, neglect, and indifference.

It leaves us to where all we have to look forward to is constant pain, misery, poverty, and dishonor. I assure you that, when the numbers do finally drop, it will merely be because those who were pushed the farthest are all already dead.

And for what? Bush’s religious lunacy? Cheney’s ever growing fortune and that of his corporate friends? Is this what we destroy lives for

Since then, I have tried everything to fill the void. I tried to move into a position of greater power and influence to try and right some of the wrongs. I deployed again, where I put a huge emphasis on saving lives. The fact of the matter, though, is that any new lives saved do not replace those who were murdered. It is an exercise in futility.

Then, I pursued replacing destruction with creation. For a time this provided a distraction, but it could not last. The fact is that any kind of ordinary life is an insult to those who died at my hand. How can I possibly go around like everyone else while the widows and orphans I created continue to struggle? If they could see me sitting here in suburbia, in my comfortable home working on some music project they would be outraged, and rightfully so.

I thought perhaps I could make some headway with this film project, maybe even directly appealing to those I had wronged and exposing a greater truth, but that is also now being taken away from me. I fear that, just as with everything else that requires the involvement of people who can not understand by virtue of never having been there, it is going to fall apart as careers get in the way.

The last thought that has occurred to me is one of some kind of final mission. It is true that I have found that I am capable of finding some kind of reprieve by doing things that are worthwhile on the scale of life and death. While it is a nice thought to consider doing some good with my skills, experience, and killer instinct, the truth is that it isn’t realistic. First, there are the logistics of financing and equipping my own operation, then there is the near certainty of a grisly death, international incidents, and being branded a terrorist in the media that would follow. What is really stopping me, though, is that I simply am too sick to be effective in the field anymore. That, too, has been taken from me.

Thus, I am left with basically nothing. Too trapped in a war to be at peace, too damaged to be at war. Abandoned by those who would take the easy route, and a liability to those who stick it out—and thus deserve better. So you see, not only am I better off dead, but the world is better without me in it

This is what brought me to my actual final mission. Not suicide, but a mercy killing. I know how to kill, and I know how to do it so that there is no pain whatsoever. It was quick, and I did not suffer. And above all, now I am free. I feel no more pain. I have no more nightmares or flashbacks or hallucinations. I am no longer constantly depressed or afraid or worried

I am free.

I ask that you be happy for me for that. It is perhaps the best break I could have hoped for. Please accept this and be glad for me.

Daniel Somers

The Death of Daniel Somers

By Ron Paul

I am reading the heartbreaking suicide note of Daniel Somers, aUS combat veteran who spent several years fighting inIraq. Mr. Somers was only 30 years old when he took his own life, after being tormented by the horrific memories of what he experienced inIraq.  He wrote: 

“The simple truth is this: During my first deployment, I was made to participate in things, the enormity of which is hard to describe. War crimes, crimes against humanity. Though I did not participate willingly, and made what I thought was my best effort to stop these events, there are some things that a person simply can not come back from.”

Many who shout the loudest that we must “support the troops” urge sending them off to unwinnable and undeclared wars in which there is no legitimate US interest. The US military has been abused by those who see military force as a first resort rather than the last resort and only in self-defense. This abuse has resulted in a generation of American veterans facing a life sentence in the prison of tortured and deeply damaged minds as well as broken bodies.

The numbers sadly tell the story: more military suicides than combat deaths in 2012, some 22 military veterans take their lives every day, nearly 30 percent of veterans treated by the VA have PTSD.

We should be saddened but not shocked when we see the broken men and women return from battles overseas. We should be angry with those who send them to suffer and die in unnecessary wars. We should be angry with those who send them to kill so many people overseas for no purpose whatsoever. We should be afraid of the consequences of such a foolish and dangerous foreign policy. We should demand an end to the abuse of military members and a return to a foreign policy that promotes peace and prosperity instead of war and poverty. Source

Over 8 thousand US war veterans, take their own lives a year.

To make matters even worse Victims of Sexual Assault also tend to take their own lives. Victims are scarred for life.

They too, are left with a nightmare to deal with.

Out of fear many Sexual Assaults, are never reported.

One must also remember, that those perpetrators, will and have, gone on to Sexually Assault victims from the countries they are stationed in.

That is not new and has been happening for years, as far back as I can remember. Apparently in Vietnam it was borderline considered Stand procedure. That was part of the un-written, code of conduct.

That information is from Vietnam war veterans, I have spoken to and the Winter Soldier testimony of that era.

Published on May 8, 2013

http://www.democracynow.org – A shocking new report by the Pentagon has found that 70 sexual assaults may be taking place within the U.S. military every day. The report estimates there were 26,000 sex crimes committed in 2012, a jump of 37 percent since 2010. Most of the incidents were never reported. The findings were released two days after the head of the Air Force’s sexual assault prevention unit, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, was arrested for sexual assault. We air highlights from Tuesday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on military sexual assault and speak with Anu Bhagwati, executive director and co-founder of Service Women’s Action Network. “The numbers are outrageous and I think we’ve reached a tipping point,” Bhagwati says. “The American public is furious.”

Suicide Data Report, 2012

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Published in: on June 27, 2013 at 12:58 pm  Comments Off on Iraq War Veterans “Last Words”  
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Mental illness rising among US troops

July 25 2010
America’s wars on Iraq and Afghanistan are taking a toll on US soldiers, as the latest statistics show one out of every nine American soldiers leaves the army on a medical discharge due to a mental disorder.

“We have 100,000 troops and a third of them suffer some sort of mental health disease and half of those suffer multiple health disease,” Paul Martin from Peace Action told Press TV’s correspondent.

The army alone saw a 64 percent increase in those forced out due to mental illness between 2005 and 2009, the numbers equal to one in nine of all medical discharges.

According to army statistics, last year alone 1,224 soldiers suffering from mental illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, received a medical discharge.

According to Mental health experts there is a growing emotional toll on the US military which has been fighting for seven years in Iraq and nine years in Afghanistan, and there is a clear relationship between multiple deployments and increased symptoms of anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Some experts say age is also a factor.

“We are talking young people — 18 to 24-year-olds, who are seeing the horrors of war,” Martin said.

Analysts are concerned that with budget cuts looming, military medical programs will be the first on the chopping block.

The soldiers who are discharged for having both a mental and physical disability increased by 174% during the last 5 years from a little under 1,400 in 2005, to more than 3,800 in 2009, according to army statistics.

The suicide rate among US soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan has escalated to a record high, with an average of one suicide per day in June.

According to US Army statistics, a total of 32 soldiers took their own lives last month, making it the worst month on record for Army suicides. Twenty-one were on active duty, with the rest being among National Guards or Army Reserves in an inactive status, CNN reported earlier in July. Source

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Published in: on July 25, 2010 at 6:03 am  Comments Off on Mental illness rising among US troops  
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War Veteran Jesse Huff Commits suicide outside VA Hospital

Jesse C. Huff, was 27 years old had been in VA emergency room earlier in the morning.

Infantryman Jesse Huff during a period of training in Alaska. Photo courtesy of Thereasa Osborne of Elm City, N.C.

Infantryman Jesse Huff hands out candy to a child during a patrol in Iraq in 2006. Photo courtesy of Thereasa Osborne of Elm City, N.C.

By Lucas Sullivan and Margo Rutledge Kissell
April 16, 2010

DAYTON — Jesse Charles Huff walked up to the Veterans Affairs Department’s Medical Center on Friday morning wearing U.S. Army fatigues and battling pain from his Iraq war wounds and a recent bout with depression.

The 27-year-old Dayton man had entered the center’s emergency room about 1 a.m. Friday and requested some sort of treatment. But Huff did not get that treatment, police said, and about 5:45 a.m. he reappeared at the center’s entrance, put a military-style rifle to his head and twice pulled the trigger.

Huff fell near the foot of a Civil War statue, his blood covering portions of the front steps.

An assault rifle lies in front of the Dayton VA Medical Center, located at 4100 W. Third St. Police on the scene said the death is the result of a suicide. Photo: Ron Alvey

Police would not specify what treatment Huff sought and why he did not receive it. Medical Center spokeswoman Donna Simmons declined to answer questions about Huff’s treatment, citing privacy laws. But police believe Huff killed himself to make a statement.

Scott Labensky, whose son lived with Huff, agreed. He said the veteran was injured by a ground blast while serving in Iraq and received ongoing treatment for a back injury and depression.

“He never got adequate care from the VA he was trying to get,” Labensky said. “I believe he (killed himself) to bring attention to that fact. I saw him two days ago. He was really hurting.”

Simmons said Huff received care at the center since August 2008 and his care was being handled by a case manager.

The suicide rate among 18- to 29-year-old men who have left the military has gone up significantly, the government said in January.

The rate for those veterans rose 26 percent from 2005 to 2007, according to data released by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The military community also has struggled with an increase in suicides, with the Army seeing a record number last year. Last May, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base focused on suicide recognition and prevention after four apparent suicides involving base personnel within six months.

Huff arrived early Friday in a cream-colored van police found parked about 200 yards from a south entrance of the medical center. The van contained some U.S. Army clothing, a carton of Newport cigarettes and a prescription bottle of Oxycodone with Huff’s name on the side.

Oxycodone is often used to treat severe pain.

As a precaution, bomb squad technicians blew apart a backpack Huff carried before committing suicide. Source

Generic Name: oxycodone (ox i KOE done)
Brand Names: ETH-Oxydose, OxyContin, Oxyfast, Oxyir, Percolone, Roxicodone, Roxicodone Intensol

This drug is Addictive.

Oxycodone Side Effects

Oxycodone side effects may be common, adverse, or precursors to possible fatality.

Pain management specialists will recommend a dosage according to the patient’s individual pain relief response and his or her ability to tolerate the common or adverse side effects produced.

The more common Oxycodone side effects include:

  • Constipation
  • Dimness in vision
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Itching reflex
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Sleeplessness
  • Sweating from shock
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

Less common Oxycodone side effects, occurring in only 5% of the population, may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Euphoria
  • Hiccups
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nervousness
  • Short or painful breathing (dyspnea)

And, reported on even more rare occasions:

  • Impotence
  • Enlarged prostate gland
  • Decreased testosterone secretion

Oxycodone Side Effects, Overuse

Most patients contact us due to the onset of more adverse Oxycodone side effects from habitual use and overuse.

Adverse side effects:

  • Confusion
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Fainting
  • Fast or slow heartbeat
  • Lightheadedness
  • Seizures
  • Severe dizziness
  • Slowed or difficult breathing
  • Tremor
  • Vision changes
  • Low resting heart rate
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Suspended breathing
  • Abnormally low blood pressure
  • Pupil constriction
  • Circulatory collapse
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Death

Severe allergic reactions:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue
  • Tightness in the chest

Convulsions may also increase in patients using Oxycodone with a history of:

  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Central nervous system infections
  • Drug withdrawal
  • Epilepsy
  • Head trauma
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Seizures

Oxycodone Side Effect Cautions

Monitor persistent Oxycodone side effects to verify a medical overdose . Different patients react differently to a medication and experience different or varying degrees of these Oxycodone side effects.

Oxycodone may cause severe hypotension (extreme blood pressure drops).

Oxycodone may be contraindicated (administer with caution) in patients having:

  • Acute alcoholism
  • Adrenal or thyroid problems
  • Bowel disorders or obstructions
  • Bronchial asthma
  • Circulatory shock
  • Decreased respiratory reserve
  • Drug-related psychosis
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Excessive CO2 blood count
  • Pancreatitis
  • Pre-existing respiratory depression
  • Reduced blood oxygen
  • Respiratory disorder affecting the right ventricle of the heart
  • Semi-conscious state or coma
  • Severe kidney or liver disease
  • Significant chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Spinal deformities impacting the lungs
  • Urinating difficulties

Other serious health concerns:

  • Oxycodone, like all morphine-type narcotics, should be administered with extreme care to patients in circulatory shock. Narrowing of the blood vessels may reduce heart rate (pulse) and blood pressure.
  • Intravenous injection, often illicit, risks lethal respiratory arrest.
  • Under doctor’s care, survey patients with head injuries, brain tumors, and other conditions of increased brain pressure for reactions.

Additional signs of Oxycodone overuse involve:

  • Decreased interest in affection
  • Decreased interest in sex
  • Ignorance of others’ distress caused by patient
  • Indifference toward family events
  • Lack of interest in simple things
  • Loss of activities and hobbies
  • Loss of vocational drive
  • Signs of clinical depression

Source

Odds are Jesse was on this drug for some time.

He in all likelyhood suffered from a number of side affects, which would greatly enhance his depression…

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War veterans who could benefit from medical marijuana, regardless of the legality in their own states, have to go outside the VA system and find new doctors just to learn about and try a potentially helpful medicine.

Sign this petition and tell the Obama administration that our veterans deserve better. They deserve to have doctors who practice medicine, not politics.

Give them Medical marijuana, it is much safer then pharmaceutical drugs.

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Soldiers, Mental illness, Drugs and Suicide

Dallas Contact Crisis Line forum to raise awareness of military suicides
March 25, 2010
By DAVID TARRANT

After eight years of war marked by repeated deployments, military families have endured great sacrifices – but few as much as Maj. Gen. Mark Graham.

In June 2003, his 21-year-old son, Kevin, a promising ROTC cadet at the University of Kentucky, killed himself. He had been diagnosed with depression. Eight months later, the general’s oldest son, Jeff, died in Iraq when a bomb exploded while he led a foot patrol.

Graham and his wife, Carol, mourned privately for several years. But as the military struggled with an increase in suicides, the Army couple began telling their story to raise awareness about depression.

“All I knew was that Kevin’s death did not need to be in vain,” Graham said in a telephone interview joined by his wife. “Carol and I both would never want this ever to happen to anyone else.”

Graham is scheduled to speak about military suicides at a luncheon today in Dallas. Contact Crisis Line, the nonprofit 24-hour suicide prevention hotline, is sponsoring the forum at the Hilton Anatole. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff, is also scheduled to speak.

Defense Department figures show that 160 active-duty Army personnel committed suicide in 2009 – up from 140 in 2008 and more than double the 77 suicides reported in 2003. The Army suicide rate is now higher than that of civilians. There is no single explanation, Pentagon officials say, but the wear and tear of repeated deployments appears to be a major factor.

“Soldiers are hurting, families are hurting, and it’s a tough time in the Army,” said Graham, deputy chief of staff of Forces Command at Fort McPherson, Ga. “Being in a war eight-plus years – it’s tough.”

Young veterans leaving military service remain at risk. The Veterans Affairs Department said recently that suicides among 18- to 29-year-old veterans have increased considerably – up 26 percent from 2005 to 2007.

In 2005, the suicide rate per 100,000 veterans among men ages 18 to 29 was 44.99, compared with 56.77 in 2007, the VA said.

“Of the more than 30,000 suicides in this country each year, fully 20 percent of them are acts by veterans,” VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said at a suicide prevention conference in January. “That means on average, 18 veterans commit suicide each day. Five of those veterans are under our care at VA.”

Graham said: “People need to know that you can die from depression. You can die from untreated depression.”

The VA has expanded mental health services to veterans and added 6,000 new mental health professionals since 2005. A 24-hour suicide prevention hotline that started in July 2007 has received 225,000 calls from veterans, active-duty personnel and family members.

But too many soldiers are reluctant to seek help for depression and anxiety because of the stigma attached to mental illness, Graham said. “One of the things we’ve tried to do is to make it clear that it’s a sign of strength, not weakness, to come forward and ask for help.”

In 2003, Kevin Graham was attending school while sharing an apartment with his siblings, Jeff and Melanie. His parents were living in South Korea, where the general was assigned.

Kevin was a “tender-hearted” child who wanted to be a doctor, said Carol Graham. At his older brother’s graduation from the University of Kentucky in May, Kevin looked in great physical condition, she said. He was exercising and getting ready for an advanced ROTC camp.

But at some point around then, he stopped taking his medication, apparently too embarrassed to admit to the military that he needed it. “He had told no one in ROTC” that he was taking Prozac, his mother said.

The Grahams feel guilt-ridden over Kevin’s death to this day. “I knew Kevin had been having problems,” Mark Graham said. “But it never even entered my mind that he could die from [depression].”

Painful as it is, the Grahams plan to continue to tell their story.

“It’s hard. It’d be easier to just curl up in a corner and do nothing,” Graham said. “But if it helps just one person not die by suicide, then it’s worth it.”

Source

Medicating the military

Use of psychiatric drugs has spiked; concerns surface about suicide, other dangers
By Andrew Tilghman and Brendan McGarry
March 17, 2010

At least one in six service members is on some form of psychiatric drug.

And many troops are taking more than one kind, mixing several pills in daily “cocktails” — for example, an antidepressant with an antipsychotic to prevent nightmares, plus an anti-epileptic to reduce headaches — despite minimal clinical research testing such combinations.

The drugs come with serious side effects: They can impair motor skills, reduce reaction times and generally make a war fighter less effective. Some double the risk for suicide, prompting doctors — and Congress — to question whether these drugs are connected to the rising rate of military suicides.

“It’s really a large-scale experiment. We are experimenting with changing people’s cognition and behavior,” said Dr. Grace Jackson, a former Navy psychiatrist.

A Military Times investigation of electronic records obtained from the Defense Logistics Agency shows DLA spent $1.1 billion on common psychiatric and pain medications from 2001 to 2009. It also shows that use of psychiatric medications has increased dramatically — about 76 percent overall, with some drug types more than doubling — since the start of the current wars.

THE FULL INVESTIGATION:

Could meds be responsible for suicides?

Downrange: ‘Any soldier can deploy on anything’

How drugs enter the war zone

Troops and military health care providers also told Military Times that these medications are being prescribed, consumed, shared and traded in combat zones — despite some restrictions on the deployment of troops using those drugs.

The investigation also shows that drugs originally developed to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are now commonly used to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, such as headaches, nightmares, nervousness and fits of anger.

Such “off-label” use — prescribing medications to treat conditions for which the drugs were not formally approved by the FDA — is legal and even common. But experts say the lack of proof that these treatments work for other purposes, without fully understanding side effects, raises serious concerns about whether the treatments are safe and effective.

The DLA records detail the range of drugs being prescribed to the military community and the spending on them:

• Antipsychotic medications, including Seroquel and Risperdal, spiked most dramatically — orders jumped by more than 200 percent, and annual spending more than quadrupled, from $4 million to $16 million.

• Use of anti-anxiety drugs and sedatives such as Valium and Ambien also rose substantially; orders increased 170 percent, while spending nearly tripled, from $6 million to about $17 million.

• Antiepileptic drugs, also known as anticonvulsants, were among the most commonly used psychiatric medications. Annual orders for these drugs increased about 70 percent, while spending more than doubled, from $16 million to $35 million.

• Antidepressants had a comparatively modest 40 percent gain in orders, but it was the only drug group to show an overall decrease in spending, from $49 million in 2001 to $41 million in 2009, a drop of 16 percent. The debut in recent years of cheaper generic versions of these drugs is likely responsible for driving down costs.

Antidepressants and anticonvulsants are the most common mental health medications prescribed to service members. Seventeen percent of the active-duty force, and as much as 6 percent of deployed troops, are on antidepressants, Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton, the Army’s highest-ranking psychiatrist, told Congress on Feb. 24.

In contrast, about 10 percent of all Americans take antidepressants, according to a 2009 Columbia University study.

Suicide risks

Many of the newest psychiatric drugs come with strong warnings about an increased risk for suicide, suicidal behavior and suicidal thoughts.

Doctors — and, more recently, lawmakers — are questioning whether the drugs could be responsible for the spike in military suicides during the past several years, an upward trend that roughly parallels the rise in psychiatric drug use.

From 2001 to 2009, the Army’s suicide rate increased more than 150 percent, from 9 per 100,000 soldiers to 23 per 100,000. The Marine Corps suicide rate is up about 50 percent, from 16.7 per 100,000 Marines in 2001 to 24 per 100,000 last year. Orders for psychiatric drugs in the analysis rose 76 percent over the same period.

“There is overwhelming evidence that the newer antidepressants commonly prescribed by the military can cause or worsen suicidal tendancys, aggression and other dangerous mental states,” said Dr. Peter Breggin, a psychiatrist who testified at the same Feb. 24 congressional hearing at which Sutton appeared.

Other side effects — increased irritability, aggressiveness and hostility — also could pose a risk.

“Imagine causing that in men and women who are heavily armed and under a great deal of stress,” Breggin said.

He cited dozens of clinical studies conducted by drug companies and submitted to federal regulators, including one among veterans that showed “completed suicide rates were approximately twice the base rate following antidepressant starts in VA clinical settings.”

But many military doctors say the risks are overstated and argue that the greater risk would be to fail to fully treat depressed troops.

For suicide, “depression is a big risk factor,” too, said Army Reserve Col. (Dr.) Thomas Hicklin, who teaches clinical psychiatry at the University of Southern California. “To withhold the medications can be a huge problem.”

Nevertheless, Hicklin said the risks demand strict oversight. “The access to weapons is a very big concern with someone who is feeling suicidal,” he said. “It has to be monitored very carefully because side effects can occur.”

Defense officials repeatedly have denied requests by Military Times for copies of autopsy reports that would show the prevalence of such drugs in suicide toxicology reports.

‘Then it’s over’

Spc. Mike Kern enlisted in 2006 and spent a year deployed in 2008 with the 4th Infantry Division as an armor crewman, running patrols out of southwest Baghdad.

Kern went to the mental health clinic suffering from nervousness, sleep problems and depression. He was given Paxil, an antidepressant that carries a warning label about increased risk for suicide.

A few days later, while patrolling the streets in the gunner’s turret of a Humvee, he said he began having serious thoughts of suicide for the first time in his life.

“I had three weapons: a pistol, my rifle and a machine gun,” Kern said. “I started to think, ‘I could just do this and then it’s over.’ That’s where my brain was: ‘I can just put this gun right here and pull the trigger and I’m done. All my problems will be gone.’”

Kern said the incident scared him, and he did not take any more drugs during that deployment. But since his return, he has been diagnosed with PTSD and currently takes a variety of psychotropic medications.

Other side effects cited by troops who used such drugs in the war zones include slowed reaction times, impaired motor skills, and attention and memory problems.

One 35-year-old Army sergeant first class said he was prescribed the anticonvulsant Topamax to prevent the onset of debilitating migraines. But the drug left him feeling mentally sluggish, and he stopped taking it.

“Some people call it ‘Stupamax’ because it makes you stupid,” said the sergeant, who asked not to be identified because he said using such medication carries a social stigma in the military.

Being slow — or even “stupid” — might not be a critical problem for some civilians. But it can be deadly for troops working with weapons or patrolling dangerous areas in a war zone, said Dr. John Newcomer, a psychiatry professor at Washington University in St. Louis and a former fellow at the American Psychiatric Association.

“A drug that is really effective and it makes you feel happy and calm and sleepy … might be a great medication for the general population,” Newcomer said, “but that might not make sense for an infantryman in a combat arena.

“If it turns out that people on a certain combo are getting shot twice as often, you would start to worry if they were as ‘heads up’ as they should have been,” Newcomer said. “There is so much on the line, you’d really like to have more specific military data to inform the prescribing.”

Military doctors say they take a service member’s mission into consideration before prescribing.

“Obviously, one would be concerned about what the person does,” said Col. C.J. Diebold, chief of the Department of Psychiatry at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii. “If they have a desk job, that may factor in what medication you may be recommending for the patient [compared with] if they are out there and they have to be moving around and reacting fairly quickly.”

Off-label use

Little hard research has been done on such unique aspects of psychiatric drug usage in the military, particularly off-label usage.

A 2009 VA study found that 60 percent of veterans receiving antipsychotics were taking them for problems for which the drugs are not officially approved. For example, only two are approved for treating PTSD — Paxil and Zoloft, according to the Food and Drug Administration. But in actuality, doctors prescribe a range of drugs to treat PTSD symptoms.

To win FDA approval, drug makers must prove efficacy through rigorous and costly clinical trials. But approval determines only how a drug can be marketed; once a drug is approved for sale, doctors legally can prescribe it for any reason they feel appropriate.

Such off-label use comes with some risk, experts say.

“Patients may be exposed to drugs that have problematic side effects without deriving any benefit,” said Dr. Robert Rosenheck, a professor of psychiatry at Yale University who studied off-label drug use among veterans. “We just don’t know. There haven’t been very many studies.”

Some military psychiatrists are reluctant to prescribe off-label.

“It’s a slippery slope,” said Hicklin, the Army psychiatrist. “Medication can be overused. We need to use medication when indicated and we hope that we are all on the same page … with that.”

Combination’s of drugs pose another risk. Doctors note that most drugs are tested as a single treatment, not as one ingredient in a mixture of medications.

“In the case of poly-drug use – the ‘cocktail’ — where you are combining an antidepressant, an anticonvulsant, an antipsychotic, and maybe a stimulant to keep this guy awake — that has never been tested,” Breggin said.

Newcomer agreed. “When we go to the literature and try to find support for these complex cocktails, we’re not going to find it,” he said. “As the number of medications goes up, the probability of adverse events like hospitalization or death goes up exponentially.”

Looking for answers

Pinpointing the reasons for broad shifts in the military’s drug use today is difficult. Each doctor prescribes medications for the patient’s individual needs.

Nevertheless, many doctors in and outside the military point to several variables — some unique to the military, some not.

A close look at the data shows that use of the antipsychotic and anticonvulsant drugs, also known as “mood stabilizers,” are growing much faster than antidepressants. That may correlate to the challenges that deployed troops face when they arrive back home and begin to readjust to civilian social norms and family life.

“The ultimate effect of both of these drugs is to take the heightened arousal — the hypervigilance and all the emotions that served you once you were deployed — and help to turn that back down,” said Dr. Frank Ochberg, former associate director for the National Institute of Mental Health and a psychiatry professor at Michigan State University who reviewed the Military Times analysis.

Dr. Harry Holloway, a retired Army colonel and a psychiatry professor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., said the increased use of these medications is simply another sign of deployment stress on the force.

“For a long time, the ops tempo has been completely unrelieved and unrestrained,” Holloway said. “When you have an increased ops tempo, and you have certain scheduling that will make it hard for everyone, you will produce a more symptomatic force. Most commanders understand that and they understand the tradeoffs.” Source

This is a long list. It is an accumulations of things that happen to ordinary people on drugs. Soldiers would have many of the same problems.

There are over 2,000 entries. They include

Suicides, Murders, Robberies, Hostage situations And other health related side affects.

4.8 Million Person Increase in Bipolar Disorder in Last 11 Years: Majority Due to SSRI Use

200,000 a Year Enter Hospital Due to Antidepressant- Induced Mania/ Psychosis: FDA Testimony

A few thousand reasons not to take Drugs

After you read it you may think twice about taking  meds.

Don’t Let the DEA Ban Recommending Medical Marijuana for Veterans

The DEA is preventing doctors at veteran’s hospitals from recommending medical marijuana to patients — even in the 14 states where medical marijuana is legal.

The Veterans Administration is taking advice from the DEA based on the federal government’s assertion that marijuana has no medicinal value. This especially tragic because of the widespread evidence that marijuana is a safe and effective treatment for post traumatic stress disorder which is all too common among our veterans.

In fact, in New Mexico for example, PTSD is the most common affliction for patients enrolled in the state’s strictly regulated medical marijuana program.

But veterans who could benefit from medical marijuana, regardless of the legality in their own states, have to go outside the VA system and find new doctors just to learn about and try a potentially helpful medicine.

Sign this petition and tell the Obama administration that our veterans deserve better. They deserve to have doctors who practice medicine, not politics. Source

Give them Medical marijuana, it is much safer then pharmaceutical drugs.

Govt Knew Since 1974 Pot Could Cure Cancer


Pot Shows Promise Cure For Cancer


Who profits from WAR?

How Criminals Profit From War

Erroneous Reports Deny our Veterans Benefits

Another Gulf War Syndrome? Burn Pits

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Afghanistan’s hidden toll: Injured Troops

Afghanistan’s hidden toll: Troops invalided out triple in three years

Unpublished figures show thousands of ex-soldiers have sought financial help – many suffering with stress disorders. Brian Brady and Nina Lakhani report

Sunday, 30 August 2009

The numbers of ‘post-service’ claims has risen by a factor of almost 100, from 15 to 1,455 since 2005

At its bloodiest, the fighting around Sangin in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, has been likened to Rorke’s Drift, the 1879 battle portrayed in the film Zulu. The military discourage the comparison but as one officer puts it: “The only difference is there are no Zulus at Sangin.”

The town has seen some of the deadliest fighting of the campaign. More British soldiers have been killed there and more medals won than anywhere else in Afghanistan. But the benefits the British troops have brought are seized on by officials, including decreased opium production and more Afghans being educated. But the benefits have come at a price, not all of which are as obvious as the monuments to the fallen British soldiers erected by their comrades.

Shortages of helicopters and surveillance equipment mean troops are only as safe as far as they can see with their rifle sights or binoculars. The Taliban also know it and are careful to lay their lethal mines and improvised explosive devices just out of sight. Soldiers work on the basis that every time they patrol there is a one in four chance one of them will die. Privately, senior British officers say they currently work on the assumption at least a “limb a day” will be lost.

The tally of dead currently stands at 208, but some senior officers believe this could rise sharply. The numbers of those wounded and maimed have soared by 300 per cent in the past three years as the increasingly bloody struggle to maintain order has intensified. New figures obtained by The Independent on Sunday also show that the numbers claiming compensation for injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan are more than 12 times higher than the total in 2005.

Unpublished figures from the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) reveal in disturbing detail the “hidden costs” of the military action, with soaring numbers being forced out by wounds. The number of soldiers applying to the AFCS for financial assistance after being medically discharged rose from 200 in 2005-06, when the scheme opened, to 845 last year. Troops claiming for injuries suffered in service rose from 240 to 3,255 during the same period.

The disclosures follow revelations last week that service chiefs expect the number wounded in Afghanistan to have doubled by the end of the year. The total to the end of July was 299 – compared to 245 in the whole of 2008.

The figures also show that the numbers of “post-service” claims has risen by a factor of almost 100, from 15 to 1,455 since 2005. A Ministry of Defence spokesman admitted the heavy toll is due to the number of people experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after leaving the services.

PTSD sufferers tell of how traumatic memories come back regularly and involuntarily, resulting in chronic anxiety and hyper-alertness. The numbers affected are contentious, but conservative estimates say that tens of thousands of British troops who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq are suffering.

The MoD’s latest assessment of psychiatric health problems within UK forces, completed late last month, showed there were 3,181 new cases of “mental disorder” in 2008 – 16 cases for every 1,000 personnel. Troops who had been deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq showed high rates of “neurotic disorders”, including PTSD, with the Royal Marines affected more than all the other services.

The MoD acknowledges the high rates of mental health problems caused by military operations. In documents, seen by the IoS, officials concede that “some personnel returned from operations with psychological problems particularly when tour lengths exceeded expectations”. The MoD has appealed for increased “X factor” payments, which recognise the extra difficulties faced by service personnel.

Critics insist it is too little, too late, and fails to acknowledge the scale of the problem. Lord Guthrie, the former head of the Army, said the authorities had been slow to recognise the problem’s scale and extent. “When we go to war, we just don’t have the wherewithal to look after the physical and mental needs of our service people. You have to make sure that when you go to war, you are prepared to look after people, and that hasn’t happened.

“Successive governments have had a very poor record and have cut, cut and cut again the care for our service people. Having to rely on the NHS is not good enough. It has no capacity to deal with the extra people who need medical attention, and all this has been compounded by the reluctance of the MoD to admit how big the problem is.

“We hear a lot about the dead, but rather less about the wounded. We haven’t been able to see the proper figures,” he said.

Problems grow once soldiers have gone home, Lord Guthrie said: “You no longer have people to talk to. Support is very hard to come by. The Government has woken up much too late to this. Ideally, you need a network of military people throughout the NHS, but how do you pay for that?”

James Saunders, 39, served in the first Gulf War in the Royal Artillery. Looking back, he was suffering from PTSD when discharged in 1993, but he believes the Army was glad to close the door on him and his problems.

“When I asked to get out, I’d already been AWOL for six months, totally off-track, so they were glad to get rid of me. I’d see guys who’d been in Northern Ireland, drinking and getting into fights, but they were never punished. I realise now that the sergeants knew it was because they were suffering mentally, but rather than talk about it, they just ignored it.”

Former SAS trooper Bob Paxman, 41, said veterans’ problems are exacerbated when they leave the forces and are “out of the family”. His GP “didn’t have a clue” where to send him and specialised counselling failed. He suffered a total breakdown in 2006.

“I was on a dangerous job in Africa. I was a total wreck, at rock bottom. If I was left alone for more than five minutes, the flashbacks would come big style. So I self-medicated and filled myself with as much booze as possible. One night, I sank a bottle of whisky and put my 9mm pistol in my mouth but I couldn’t pull the trigger,” he said.

After his experiences Mr Paxman helped set up the charity talking2minds to help others with similar problems. Combat Stress is another charity which has stepped into the vacuum created by the MoD and the NHS. It is helping around 4,000 ex-servicemen and women with combat-related mental health problems.

It takes, on average, 14 years after discharge for a veteran suffering problems to approach them. Most current patients were on active duty
in the Falklands, Northern Ireland and the first Gulf War; less than 10 per cent have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Hundreds more are treated in private hospitals ever year, paid for by the NHS.

David Hill, Combat Stress’s chief executive, said: “The scale and size of the problem is not known and is not adequately mapped in the UK – unlike the US and Australia. We are currently seeing an unprecedented increase in demand. Since 2005, there has been a 66 per cent increase in referrals and we are already providing support for 316 veterans of recent conflicts.” He says the NHS has no accurate figures on its veteran patients, and without such figures, no effective planning can be done.

In contrast, in Scotland, veterans are more involved in planning mental health services. They work in collaboration with NHS and voluntary services to ensure they get the services they need. “This is a very good model, and one that we could all learn from,” said Mr Hill. “There is a real drive in Scotland to understand more about the size and scale of the problem, and the services required to properly meet the current and future needs of veterans.”

The looming extent of problems created by Afghanistan has prompted the US to act. Earlier this month, it announced controversial plans to train all 1.1 million of its soldiers in emotional resilience. The training, the first of its kind for any military, hopes to prevent mental health problems from developing by helping soldiers to recognise and cope better with stressful situations in combat and civilian life. The $117m (£72m) scheme, to be rolled out by next summer, is unproven but the rising rates of suicide, PTSD and substance misuse has convinced military commanders to try it.

British experts aren’t convinced it is the correct route to take. Professor Simon Wessely, director of military health research at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, said: “I don’t think, to be honest, that there is a great call for this, I doubt it will be well received by the armed forces themselves anyway, and any benefits are likely to be slim… so no, I wouldn’t be pushing this. But if the US funds the research and show a significant benefit, then I am happy to be persuaded.”

Evidence strongly suggests that attempts to prevent PTSD work poorly, he said. “We have established and successful treatments;, the problem is acceptability and delivery.”

War wounds: ‘I was on a self-destruct train. There was no help’

James Saunders, 39, from Hampshire, joined the Army aged 17. Three years later, he flew to Iraq and spent six months fighting in the first Gulf War where he was involved in a terrifying friendly fire incident that injured five soldiers. On his return, his life spiralled out on control and he sought, and got, a discharge in 1993. It took another 12 years for him to find the psychological help he needed.

“We would drive down Basra Road, looking at the carnage left behind by allied air forces. It was like a slow motion film with body parts everywhere, sitting in cars. These images were burnt into my memory.

“When we flew home, a sergeant handed us all a piece of paper which said that we might experience problems with relationships. I was 21; I laughed and threw it in the bin. Eighteen months later, my son was stillborn and that sped up the self-destruct train. I ruined my relationship; cut myself off from family; I was taking every drug you can think of; went awol for months and eventually ended up in prison. I met at least six other army guys inside, all with similar problems, but there was no help.

“It wasn’t until a friend told me about Combat Stress four years ago that like so many guys, I realised I had PTSD.

“If I’d told anyone in the Army about the nightmares or how I felt I’d have been considered unreliable. That’s the way the military was, and still is. They train you physically but not mentally, which means good people are lost unnecessarily. If I’d had help back then, I’d still be in the Army now, coming up to my 22nd year of service.”
Source

Symptoms of mental illnesses.

  • PTSD
  • Clinical depression
  • Anxiety states
  • Adjustment disorders
  • Phobic disorders
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Bi-polar illness (manic depression)
  • Issues relating to past and present substance abuse/dependence (drug and alcohol)
  • Psychotic conditions in a non-acute phase
  • Issues relating to anger

Operation Enduring Freedom

Casualties of Troops By Country

More times then not, someone is watching their comrades dieing. That leaves a long term memory of sorrow and loss.

They may even be holding them in their arms as they die.

To September 18 2009

Country Total
Australia 11
Belgium 1
Canada 131
Czech 3
Denmark 24
Estonia 6
Finland 1
France 31
Germany 33
Hungary 2
Italy 21
Latvia 3
Lithuania 1
Netherlands 21
Norway 4
Poland 13
Portugal 2
Romania 11
South Korea 1
Spain 25
Sweden 2
Turkey 2
UK 216
US 838
Total 1403

Coalition Military Fatalities By Year

To September 18 2009

Year Total
2001 12
2002 69
2003 57
2004 59
2005 131
2006 191
2007 232
2008 294
2009 358
Total 1403

Source

Names of soldier,  dates  of deaths, cause of death

Each year the number of casualties are risisng.

The spin doctors try to make us believe things are getting better in Afghanistan, when in fact they are deteriorating.

Population of Afghanistan: In 2008  32,738,376

They are helping Afghanistan are they? Well I don’t see any improvements.

What you don’t hear much about in the News Media.

Unemployment rate In Afghanistan: No improvement there?

Year Unemployment rate (%)
2000 8
2006 40
2007 40
2008 40

Infant Mortality Rate is Rising: No improvement there?

Year Infant mortality rate (deaths/1,000 live births)
2000 149.28
2001 147.02
2002 144.76
2003 142.48
2004 165.96
2005 163.07
2006 160.23
2007 157.43
2008 154.67

Literacy Rate is Declining: Improved a bit for 5 years and is now below the 2000, 15% . No improvement there?

Year Literacy (%)
2000 15
2001 15
2002 21
2003 21
2004 21
2005 21
2006 21
2007 12.6
2008 12.6

Afghan Poverty rates are rising: No improvement there?

Year Population below poverty line (%)
2004 23
2005 53
2006 53
2007 53
2008 53

Afghans fit for Military Service: So one has to wonder, how many may decide to fight against NATO forces? They are seeing their friends and family die at the hands of NATO.

Year Manpower fit for military service
2000 3,432,236
2001 3,561,957
2002 3,696,379
2003 3,837,646
2004 3,642,659
2005 2,662,946
2006 2,508,574
2007 2,508,574
2008 3,946,685

Source

There have been over 56,000 Afghan Civilians injured and over 8,000 who have died because if the war.  They to suffer from all the same things soldiers suffer from as well.  The numbers on both side are growing.

The number of civilians killed in fighting between the Taliban and foreign forces in Afghanistan is rising.

March 9, 2009

The United Nations says the toll in 2008 was 40 per cent more than in the previous year, and things could get worse with the arrival of more US troops.

Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr reports from Kabul.

Within the first 6 months of 2009 over 1,000 Civilians were killed.

Since then many, many more have died.

Things have escalated in Afghanistan since the arrival of the troops from the US. The US is not wanted there.

The number of soldiers who die and get injured have risen as well.

Even the recent election was fraudulent.

So what are the soldiers dieing for?  Certainly not for “democracy” that is just a sham.  Something the spin doctors like to feed the public.

“We are making progress” something else the spin doctors like to feed the public.

The spin doctors tell us “Our soldiers die for a noble cause”. What a crock.

They actually want to control the middle east and it’s people. They want to control the resources of gas and oil.

That is really why men, women and  children  are dieing or becoming severely injured, civilian or military makes little difference.

Lost arms, lost legs, lost eyesight, mental health problems are just a few of the injuries that occur.  Permanent  injures that last for the rest of their lives.

On both sides there are thousands upon thousands of victims who will suffer for the rest of their lives.

Where do we draw the line? When do we say enough.

Usama Bin Ladin has never been connected to 9/11.

Has Usama Bin Ladin been dead for seven years – and are the U.S. and Britain covering it up to continue war on terror? FBI never linked him to 9/11

So why is NATO in Afghanistan?

More than half of British public against UK mission in Afghanistan

(Afghanistan 9) A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

Elusive threats boost PTSD risk in Afghanistan

Traumatic brain injuries the signature wound of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq

British officer leaked 8,000 Civilians killed in Afghanistan

Teenagers commit suicide the Cyber connection

A 19-year-old man in Florida committed suicide live on the internet as hundreds of web surfers watched – taunting him and offering encouragement.

Abraham K. Biggs, from Broward County, Florida, announced his intention on an online forum, posted a suicide note on another and then took an overdose of pills in front of his webcam, broadcasting his final moments on Justin.tv.

Mr Biggs lay on his bed motionless for several hours before members of the website became alarmed. With the video still streaming, viewers eventually called the local police, who broke down the door, found the body and switched off the camera. Up to 1,500 people were viewing, according to one report.

A video clip posted on the net shows a police officer entering the room, his handgun drawn, as he checks for any sign of life. Mr Biggs was a member of bodybuilding.com under the name CandyJunkie and was also known under the alias of Feels Like Ecstasy on Justin. tv. He had apparently threatened to commit suicide before.

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On Wednesday he went on the bodybuilding.com forum and detailed the amount of drugs he was going to take. The moderators of the forum reportedly did not take him seriously because of his past threats and other forum members egged him on. “You want to kill yourself?” one said. “Do it, do the world a favour and stop wasting our time with your mindless self-pity.”

In his suicide note Mr Biggs said that he had hurt other people and hated himself for being a failure. “I am an a@#hole. I have let everyone down and I feel as though I will never change or never improve. I am in love with a girl and I know that I am not good enough for her,” he wrote.

As he lay on the bed after taking the pills, many forum members continued to insult him, believing that it was a hoax.

Justin.tv, named after Justin Kan, its first star, is an open network of thousands of live channels based in San Francisco.

“We regret that this has occurred and respect the privacy of the broadcaster and his family during this time,” Michael Seibel, CEO of Justin.tv, said.

“We have policies in place to discourage the distribution of distressing content and our community monitors the site accordingly. This content was flagged by our community, reviewed and removed according to our terms of service.”

The video feed has been taken down, but clips have been posted elsewhere on the net and copies of the suicide note can also be found, though many of the forum posts have been deleted by their authors.

Mr Biggs’s friends have posted RIP messages on his MySpace page, with some still asking him to pick up his phone.

Last year a British man hanged himself live on webcam. His suicide was witnessed by about 100 chatroom users. Kevin Whitrick, 42, from Telford, Shropshire, killed himself after being goaded in an “insult” chatroom at the Paltalk website. One of the users is claimed to have told him: “F***ing do it. Get on with it.”

According to one charity that works to prevent suicide, there have been at least 17 deaths in Britain since 2001 involving chatrooms or sites that give advice on suicide methods.

Source

My first Question would be was he taking medication for depression.

Many medications can lead to numerous disasters Suicide being one of them.

2,200 Reasons not to do drugs

This is just so sad.

The mother of a 13-year-old girl described how her daughter hanged herself with a belt after being taunted on her MySpace page by a boy whose identity was later revealed to have been invented by a neighbour.

Tina Meier recounted how “Josh Evans” befriended her 13-year-old daughter, Megan, online during the first day of the case against Lori Drew, who is accused of taking part in the internet hoax that prosecutors say led to Megan’s suicide.

In the first cyber-bullying trial in the US, the jury heard that “Josh” sent Megan a message saying that the world would be better off without her. Megan sent a response saying, “You are the kind of boy a girl would kill herself over.”


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“The last words she said to me were: ‘You are supposed to be my mom, you are supposed to be on my side’,” Mrs Meier said as she tried to hold back tears.

Mrs Meier said she later ran upstairs and found Megan hanging in the closet with a belt around her neck. She died the next day.

Drew, 49, from Missouri, has pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing computers without authorisation. Each count carries a potential sentence of five years in prison. The case is expected to set a legal precedent for dealing with the issue of online harassment.

In his opening statement to jurors, US Attorney Thomas O’Brien said Drew helped create the false identity on MySpace to learn if Megan was spreading malicious rumors on MySpace about Sarah Drew, the defendant’s then 13-year-old daughter.

Mr O’Brien said the evidence would show that Drew opened the MySpace account and “fully intended to hurt and prey on Megan’s psyche”. The jury was told that Drew knew that Megan was “vulnerable, suicidal and boy crazy”.

“Her purpose was to tease Megan Meier, to tease her, to humiliate her and to hurt her,” Mr O’Brien said. “One of her plans was to print out the conversations and take it to Megan’s school and let people make fun of this depressed 13-year-old girl.”

Dean Steward, the defence attorney, told jurors that Drew did not violate the Computer Use and Fraud Act — used in the past to address computer hacking — and reminded them she was not facing charges dealing with the suicide. “This is not a homicide case,” Mr Steward said.

After jurors were dismissed for the day, Mr Steward unsuccessfully requested a mistrial, saying the emotional testimony was “totally improper in a computer fraud case”.

Prosecutors said that Drew conspired with her daughter and Drew’s then 18-year-old assistant, Ashley Grills, to invent an attractive male teenager on MySpace to find out what was being said about Sarah. In a final message, Ms Grills, posing as Josh Evans, told Megan: “The world would be a better place without you. Have a shitty rest of your life,” Mr O’Brien said.

Mr Steward countered it was Ms Grills who set up the MySpace account and his client was driving home when the message about the world being a better place without Megan was sent. Ms Grills has been granted immunity to testify for the prosecution.

The case is being prosecuted in Los Angeles because MySpace computer servers are based in the area.

Source

Cyber bully’s sex hoax led friend to try to kill himself

One in three teenagers ‘cyber-bullied’

Focus: The school bully is moving into cyberspace

Published in: on November 22, 2008 at 3:26 am  Comments Off on Teenagers commit suicide the Cyber connection  
Tags: , , ,

The domino effect: Road to recession

It began with the banks. Then house prices began to tumble. In the months that followed, the shock waves spread, engulfing first high streets, then factories – and thousands of jobs. In this gripping account, Paul Vallely travels across Britain to meet the people whose lives – and livelihoods – have fallen victim to the domino effect that left a nation broken

November 12 2008

We could begin with Peter Sastawnyuk. The 53-year-old businessman filled his £370,000 detached home with petrol canisters, sealed the locks, set tripwires and threatened to set the place alight. More than 40 of his neighbours were evacuated from the posh cul-de-sac on the edge of the Pennines from which Sastawnyuk sent his children to be educated at private school. But the cradle of his dreams imploded, in the end, as the scene of a five-hour police siege. The trigger for it all, a court in Rochdale was told last month, was that he had lost his job, got into debt and had had his home repossessed.

Or we could start with Karl Harrison. The father-of-two was found hanging in his garden shed in Anglesey. The 40-year-old surveyor had lost his job when the housing market began to turn down. He fell behind with his payments on his home loan and was being harassed by a firm called Oakwood Homeloans to pay the arrears, the recent inquest was told. Harrison’s widow has now put the house on the market.

But we do not need melodrama or tragedy to tell this story. So, instead, let us begin with what is becoming a more everyday misfortune.

It was an ordinary Thursday morning in early October when Jackie Horn, a 43-year-old IT worker, left her neat little Edwardian town house behind Stockport Grammar School to make the short journey to work. Her destination was the Vauxhall Industrial Estate in which the largest site was occupied by the company for which she had worked for the past 16 years – Chemix, which manufactured the compounds from which uPVC window frames and cladding are made.

She looked back casually at the house, with its handsome stained-glass windows, and got in her car, a small silver Peugeot. She had bought the house 12 years ago and, though she lived alone, her mortgage was nicely manageable. She had had the car for two years and it was all paid for. At Chemix, she had risen from being a receptionist to being a computer programmer. She was better paid now. Hers was a settled life.

She had had an inkling that things were not quite right at work. She noticed from her IT processing that orders for resin, Chemix’s incoming raw material, had been down for a while. So were orders for the compounds the firm produced as the nation’s door-to-door salesmen found ever-larger numbers of people saying no to the idea of having their windows replaced.

Then, about four weeks earlier, the management had told the workforce that it might have to move to only three or four days’ working each week. The workers had rejected the idea in a ballot and a couple of weeks later were told there might have to be selective redundancies. But letters had gone out a few days before saying that jobs in sales and IT were safe.

When she arrived at the little factory, “a lot of blokes in suits” had appeared. A meeting of the whole workforce was called. The firm was in administration, the bankruptcy accountants told them. They had all lost their jobs. They should leave immediately.

“It was a real shock,” she says. “One day I was receiving a letter telling me my job was safe; the next it had gone. The mood was bad. Everyone was saying goodbye. They were hugging and shaking hands.” She was told she would be kept on for an extra two weeks to help with the shutdown. “I couldn’t look the men in the eye.” Now she, too, sits idle at home.

The Domino Effect

The chain of events – which began with salesmen on commission wildly dishing out sub-prime mortgages (to poor people the United States who did not even have to prove they had the earnings to repay them) and ended with Jackie Horn losing her job – is a long one.

I have spent the past few weeks tracing each link in that chain through the stories of a series of people:

The fall-off in demand for Chemix’s products was the result of decisions such as the one made by a Birmingham newsagent, whose domestic economies included not having his windows removed and replaced with uPVC frames because his cigarette sales were down.

Cigarette sales at the newsagent’s had fallen because staff at the nearby Range Rover production plant had had their hours cut.

Range Rover sales are down because a wide variety of businesses are now tightening their belts; not replacing company cars is an obvious money saver.

Among the businesses not replacing company cars as part of general cost cutting are the shop-fitting, sign-writing and advertising firms employed by retail giant Marks & Spencer, which has had two-thirds wiped from the value of its shares this year.

Trade in shops is down because consumer confidence has fallen in line with catastrophic drops in the prices of shares.

Share market volatility was provoked by the sudden refusal of the banks to lend money to anyone, including each other.

The crisis of confidence within the banks was fed by the dramatic multi-billion dollar collapse of the investment bank Lehman Brothers, which was the biggest bankruptcy the world has ever seen.

To make sense of this complex saga, I set out to travel around the United Kingdom to speak to individuals who had played a key part in each stage of the tumbling of the economic dominoes. There were repeated surprises along the way. Encounters with the real world are like that. Not everything turns out as you might expect.

Northern Rock – Panic Begins

The giant tower of the new Northern Rock building stands empty, like a monument to the folly of the years of reckless capitalism. It has never been occupied. Out at Gosforth, on the northern edge of Newcastle, it is the place where the first rumblings of the seismic shakeout that is now gripping the globe were first detected in the UK.

Today, the yellow-brick buildings that surround it are still staffed, but by managers and employees humbled by the events of the past 12 months which have turned them from freebooting buccaneers of a banking world – in which the possibilities of growth seemed unlimited – to servants of a nationalised service industry. Even the bricks seem symbolic, for the yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz led to a gleaming city with a giant fraud at its heart.

The man who is driving me round the once-mighty complex is Dennis Grainger. He was once a senior employee of the firm and is now the leading light in the Northern Rock Shareholders Action Group. The combination makes him uniquely placed to tell the story of the building society that turned bank after Margaret Thatcher’s deregulation of the financial sector and which last year provoked the first run on a British bank since the Victorian era.

“Northern Rock was not involved in dodgy sub-prime lending,” says Grainger, 61, of Cramlington, Northumberland. “Our loans were good, safe lending to people who could afford to repay. The Rock was very strict in asking whether people could afford to borrow that amount.” He knows this because one of his jobs was to manage the people checking the paperwork.

“After the crisis broke, the media said the problem was that Northern Rock lent people more than they needed to buy their homes. And it is true that we did offer 125 per cent loans, to cover the house purchase and additional expenses. But the rates of default on those were just half the national average.”

What did for Northern Rock was that so much of the money it lent did not come from depositors but was borrowed by the bank on the international money markets. That is what had turned a provincial building society into the UK’s fifth largest mortgage lender – and a FTSE 100 company. “Some 80 per cent of the mortgages we gave out had been borrowed in this way,” Grainger says. ” I know I used to sign the documents for millions of transfers each month.”

The problem came when, on 9 August 2007, one of France’s three biggest banks, BNP Paribas, told investors that they could not take money out of two of its funds because it was unable to value the assets in them. This was because the financial world had created complex financial packages out of the sub-prime debt and sold them on to other investors. It was like pass the parcel; investors had, in effect, bought blind because the deals had so many layers that no one knew what lay at their heart.

The crunch came when some investors wanted their money back and Paribas realised it did not know whether it had the money to pay out. It was, in the words of Northern Rock’s former chief executive Adam Applegarth, “the day the world changed”. Money markets across the globe shut down because they did not know which banks would remove the final wrapper from the “credit default swaps” – and find they were holding a booby prize.

When the money stopped flowing, banks like Northern Rock – which had, in the jargon, “borrowed short-term to lend long-term” – could not get hold of the cash to finance their next day’s business. On 13 September 2007 the BBC’s business editor, Robert Peston, revealed that Northern Rock had asked for emergency support from the Bank of England. But there was no danger of the bank going bust, he added, so customers need not panic.

“It had the same effect that Corporal Jones does in Dad’s Army,” observes Grainger wryly. “When you shout, ‘Don’t panic! Don’t panic!!” people do exactly the opposite. Peston should have known that.” Outside Northern Rock’s branches, massive queues formed of savers demanding to withdraw their money.

But, if there was compassion for savers, there was scant sympathy for those running Northern Rock, whose chairman was a non-banker – the local oddball free-market environmentalist aristocrat Matt Ridley – and whose risk committee was chaired by Sir Derek Wanless, who had previously been ousted from NatWest with a reported £3m payoff. It was they who had endorsed the aggressive growth strategy of bullish chief executive Applegarth and, in the words of the financial journalist Alex Brummer, author of The Crunch: the scandal of Northern Rock and the Escalating Credit Crisis, “allowed him to run riot, without checks and balances”.

The people most often forgotten in all this are the shareholders. “People assume all the shares were held by big institutions and greedy hedge funds,” says Grainger, “but a quarter of the shares are held by little folk.” Again, he knows because he has met 2,000 of them in the streets where he sets up his Shareholders Action Group stall. Another 4,000 have emailed him.

“These people are not speculators or gamblers. They are people in their seventies, eighties and nineties living on very small incomes who received a few hundred shares in the original demutualisation. Many are old ladies keeping their shares to pay for their funeral arrangements and who I’ve seen crying in the streets, saying they will now be a burden to their family. They are Mr and Mrs Shipyardworker who put their savings, with pride, into the local bank.”

Again, this is not academic to Dennis Grainger. Every month for 10 years he put £250 of his salary into the Northern Rock employees’ Share and Save scheme. It was to be his retirement pot. At one point it was worth £114,000. Today it is utterly worthless. “The real losers in all this are the small investors who worked for Northern Rock or savers who bought shares and remained loyal to the bank,” he concludes. “The treatment they have suffered is very unfair.”

It is not the only consequence. To accelerate the payback to the taxpayer, the new management at the now-nationalised company is pursuing an aggressive policy of repossessing the homes of borrowers who get into arrears. Northern Rock’s rate of repossessions is currently running at around double the industry average. And leaked documents from inside the bank reveal that it is set to double numbers in its debt collection arm.

There is a quiet indignation in Grainger’s conclusion. “We have been treated very badly by the Government,” he says. “Northern Rock was illiquid, not insolvent. When there was a run on the bank they wouldn’t lend us £2.7bn, but they’ve had to stump up £400bn to prop up other banks since. We should have been given the same terms as other banks were subsequently given.”

But there was one other bank not included in the rescue deal. When Lehman Brothers investment bank folded it provoked the biggest corporate bankruptcy ever seen.

Lehman – The Untouchables?

Until recently, Andrew Gowers had an office on the 30th floor of a tower in Canary Wharf which offered a stunning panorama of the City of London. It seemed an appropriate location for the UK arm of an investment bank that was one of the big five beasts of Wall Street. If there was any institution whose members might fall prey to the hubris of believing that they truly were Masters of the Universe – as top City traders described themselves with an irony which depreciated with the passing years – then the men at the top of Lehman Brothers might be among their number. The air indeed seemed rarefied at that height. The shame was that nobody bothered to pack the oxygen.

For the past month, Gowers, a former editor of the Financial Times – and now a former director of communications at the 150-year-old US investment bank which had begun life in the 1850s as a cotton-trading partnership – has sequestered himself away in a far less public place, having quit the bank just before it collapsed. He has had a month “watching the autumn go by” in the south of France.

Northern Rock was the prequel to the concatenation of events which has seen £3,000bn wiped off the value of the world’s shares. It has also seen taxpayers across the globe spend double that amount to prop up the world’s banks. But it was the collapse of Lehman Brothers – and the sight of well-paid bankers carrying their belongings from their Canary Wharf offices in black sacks and cardboard boxes – which first suggested that something was going on that might have ripples that moved beyond the United States, or indeed, the Northumbrian fastness of Northern Rock.

But for Andrew Gowers, the writing had been on the Wharf for a good deal longer.

“There was a general awareness of difficulties,” he says, “from August 2007 onwards.” Lehman was a very large borrower, with, according to some estimates, around $130bn in debt, much of it in sub-prime. “But the feeling was that we weren’t as badly exposed as some and there appeared to be some good and clever hedging strategies in place, Gowers says. So 2007 ended as a record year with bumper revenues and the balance sheet grew in the first quarter of 2008 – “which a lot of people, after the fact, found pretty incomprehensible.”

There was no excuse for this complacency. In March, a smaller investment bank, Bear Stearns, had collapsed. In response, Lehman’s share price fell 48 per cent in less than a morning. “But the Lehman management told itself that we were different from Bear Stearns,” Gowers recalls, “because we weren’t so reliant on short-term borrowing and we had large amounts of liquidity.” Anyway, the US Federal Reserve – America’s equivalent of the Bank of England – had stepped in to save Bear Stearns. Perhaps the top people at Lehman – a far bigger bank – believed they would have a state safety net, too.

Even so, says Andrew Gowers, “it all scared the living daylights out of the top management and some major effort was made to shrink the balance sheet, to cut the borrowing and get rid of some of the problem assets.”

The trouble was that other banks were doing the same thing at exactly the same time. As a result, the prices of the assets they wanted to sell fell at a shockingly fast pace. Lehman began to run out of time. It could not offload enough of the dodgy sub-prime debts. To make matters worse, the “good and clever hedging strategies” began to come unstuck. Indeed, instead of offsetting losses, some of the hedges magnified them.

“From April, I became aware of quite a sizeable loss accumulating. Nobody was quite sure how big it was going to be.” In June, executives at Lehman’s money management subsidiary, Neuberger Berman, sent emails to the top managers at Lehman Brothers suggesting that they forgo bonuses – to “send a strong message to both employees and investors that management is not shirking accountability for recent performance.” Lehman’s executive committee dismissed the idea out of hand.

When the news of the first loss ever in Lehman’s independent history came out the market was shocked. Senior managers, including the chief executive, Dick Fuld, didn’t seem to get the measure of the problem. Gowers recalls: “They just thought: we’re not in a catastrophic place, we’ve suffered some buffeting from abnormal developments in the market, but we have a plan to get out of it.”

The market did not agree and the Lehman share price continued to plummet. “That caused jaws to drop, says Gowers and the bank’s chief financial officer Erin Callan and its president Joe Gregory, who had been Dick Fuld’s right-hand man for 34 years, resigned.

But it was not enough. “Eventually, at one minute before midnight, they came out with an explanation of what had gone wrong and what they planned to do,” Gowers recalls. “But it was too late.”

In the end, what did for Lehman was that its executives failed to understand that the politics had changed. On 7 September, America’s biggest mortgage providers, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, had to be rescued by the US government. It was one of the largest bailouts in US history. “A feeling grew in Congress that there had to be a limit,” Gowers says.

Lehman Brothers became that limit. “At quite a few points in the downward spiral Lehman’s could have been bought, but Dick Fuld was too proud to accept that,” Gowers adjudges. The result was the largest corporate bankruptcy in history.

Andrew Gowers got out just before the collapse, having concluded that his job had become untenable. The evening that I interviewed him, he had just returned from a relaxed day at the market in Cahors. There would be sea bream for dinner that night. But things looked a little more bleak for some of his former colleagues.

Investment bankers rank fairly low on the public sympathy index. Gowers acknowledges that, yet warns against broadbrush judgements. “There were a lot of people in Lehman’s who took 80 per cent of their pay in shares which were deferred for five years and a relatively low salary,” he says. Many borrowed against those shares and are now hiding away and licking their wounds.

“It had been rolling along in a fantastic way for so long that everybody really did began to think there was no way it was going to end. They applied that to their own personal finances, as well as the way they ran the firms, borrowing against tomorrow.”

But now, grimly, tomorrow has become today.

Blame it on the young guns

The seats are of the kind of red plush velvet that speaks not of your local Indian restaurant but of discreet wealth. The menu offers seared Isle of Skye scallops with pork belly squares and cauliflower purée. With the chateaubriand of Aberdeen Angus, served with a béarnaise sauce, I suspect that Duncan Glassey’s eye might alight at a £58 bottle of 1975 Château Cantenac Brown. But I am wrong. He is happy, he says, with an Australian shiraz, the cheapest on the list of bin ends in the smart Circus Wine Bar & Grill in the austere Georgian elegance of Edinburgh’s New Town.

“How did the world’s cleverest financiers get into this almighty mess?,” I ask him.

There is a lot about Duncan Glassey which is not what you might expect. The child chess prodigy who turned professional runs a wealth planning consultancy for the mediumly-rich. It grew out of his experience of working with lottery winners at the accountant Ernst & Young in the mid-Nineties. His firm Wealthflow LLP now specialises in clients with between £1m and £5m to invest.

For all that, he is modest in his own lifestyle. So much so that in the past he has been told that he lost business from new clients after turning up for the initial interview in a car which they decided was insufficiently grand. There is something about him of the solidity of old money. His client list includes aristocrats as well as advocates. Like those whose money he manages, his bias is towards the conservative and away from the febrile psychology of “active management” where, he insists, over-activity can sometimes substitute for solid long-term investment.

Glassey has some interesting thoughts on the generational conflicts that have tipped the world into financial crisis and to the brink of recession: “The people who made the strategy in the banks are of the baby-boomer generation born from 1945 onwards. They are a generation of grand visions, optimism and high ideals about combining individual empowerment with social values. They are the big talkers and the people with the vision and mission statements.”

By contrast, the generation who have managed us into the present situation have a very different set of attitudes and values. Generation X are the children of the Thatcher era. “They are at home with globalisation and the information revolution,” he says. “Change is normal, as is the idea of lifelong learning. They are not scared of failure.

“What’s important to them is individualism, choice, self-reliance and immediate gratification. They are thrill seekers.” They can be pessimists, cynics and selfish.

But the younger generation who created sophisticated financial products which have so dramatically imploded – the “masters of the universe” – are different again, Glassey says. “They are Generation Y, born from 1985 onwards. They are the generation who have not known a world without the internet. They are highly techno-savvy and street smart but information overload has made them hugely naive in many other ways. They are the Facebook and Bebo generation – networkers who live in a world where divorce and geographical dispersion has broken down the family. They are self-obsessed and close-focused.

“The belief systems of the three groups – the strategists, the managers and the traders – are entirely different,” concludes Glassey. “They don’t really understand one another at all. And they didn’t know what each other really wanted or expected out of the complex financial architecture they created.

“Everybody was locked into the Nick Leeson scenario; no one asked questions so long as everyone was making money.”

The shaven-headed Glassey, aged 39, characterises himself as on the cusp between generations X and Y but his values hark back to what he calls “the old days when banks were trustworthy and on your side, before they became out-and-out sales organisations”. His approach is to keep his clients away from financial fads and fashions and “commission-based products which are deliberately made so complex that clients can’t understand them”. Glassey was always suspicious of the world of credit-swap derivates which he saw as a parade of emperor’s new clothes. “I view all that as speculation. I’m not paid to make huge money for my clients; I’m paid to diversify risk.”

But his clients, Glassey acknowledges, will not be the ones to suffer. “Their portfolios may be down 15 per cent where others are down 35 per cent or more. But their homes and jobs are not as risk.” So whose jobs and homes are in peril? And why? The trail pointed away from the world of pure finance and into that of the stock market.

The trillion-dollar wipeout

They are still selling oysters and champagne in the great courtyard of the Royal Exchange which was founded in 1565 as the centre of commerce for the City of London. In the 17th century, stockbrokers were not allowed within its elegant portals because of their rude manners, but today it is no longer a stock market. Instead, it is a luxury shopping centre whose pillared and marbled atrium is lined with discreet boutiques bearing names like De Beers, Hermès, Tiffany, Bulgari and Cartier. A couple of lattes in its magnificent courtyard will set you back the price on an entire lunch for two in Bury market, of which more later.

I was there to meet Richard Hunter, head of British equities at the fund manager Hargreaves Lansdown – which manages £11bn in shares for its small investor clients. I wanted to find out why the alarm over bank shares that gripped the stock market then infected other areas. After the collapse of Lehman Brothers, it was not just banking shares that fell; equities plummeted in a wide range of companies that had no connections with the financial services industry.

“Credit is the oil in the machinery of the business world,” he says. Every business needs to borrow to finance the gap between buying its raw materials and the income arriving for what it sells. “The money that used to be available to do that just isn’t there any more because the banks have stopped lending to one another. All that has been impacted by the credit squeeze. That’s why share prices fell first in certain sectors – the banks and financial services companies – but soon spread to other areas.”

But there were a collection of other forces in the real economy that accelerated the speed with which prices fell.

“It was a cocktail of factors,” he says. “After the sub-prime crisis broke in the US and after the collapse of Northern Rock here, some people became more cautious and started to spend less.” Then came the global rise in food prices which raised the cost of bread, rice and other staples in the supermarkets; in April, rice prices were double what they had been seven months earlier. Next followed the international hike in the price of oil – it rose as high as $147 a barrel in July, almost treble what it had been a couple of years earlier. And that massively increased both domestic fuel bills and petrol prices.

“If it costs you an extra £10 a week to fill your car and you’re on a budget,” he says, “you have to find that £10 by cutting back somewhere. If you’re paying more for your gas and electricity you have to cut back on something else.”

Then, on top of all that, house prices had started to fall. The fall-off began slowly, last November. By April this year, house prices were lower than they had been a year before. It was the first time an annual drop had been recorded for 12 years. The number of new houses being built fell to the lowest level for 60 years. The building industry, after 13 years of unprecedented growth, faced a major slump; in July the housebuilder Taylor Wimpey asked shareholders for an extra £500m and failed to raise it. Mortgage lending crawled to a near standstill in August as approvals for new homes hit a record low. By September, house prices across the country had fallen by about 10 per cent. Repossessions rose to triple their previous level. In the worst hit areas, such as the centre of Manchester where thousands of buy-to-let apartments had been made in converted inner city warehouses, prices fell by more than 20 per cent.

Half the flats in one prestigious block, Albion Mill – a converted Victorian biscuit factory with double-height living rooms and stunning views across to the Pennines – were repossessed. One woman, Jeanette Leach, 31, got off the plane at Manchester Airport after a holiday in Tenerife and received a text message saying her home had been repossessed; she went straight into the toilets at Terminal Two and hanged herself with the cord from her tracksuit bottoms.

The majority of those falling into difficulties as result of the credit crunch were not driven to such extremes. But, says Richard Hunter, “the stock market tries to discount the falls in value that will come over the next nine to 12 months.” As soon as the banking system was pulled back from what the head of the International Monetary Fund called “brink of systemic meltdown”, investors began to consider what might be the short-to-medium term implications for the real economy. House prices were a key indicator.

And further contraction was obviously on the cards. Some 1.2 million homeowners in the UK are now faced with the prospect of negative equity because the prices of their properties have fallen below what they paid for them. Another 1.4 million households are due to come off short-term fixed-rate mortgage deals by the end of 2008. The credit crunch on the wholesale markets was making mortgages harder to come by. It contributed to a growing “feel-bad” factor on the markets. “With shares and house prices you don’t crystallise your loss till you sell, but you feel poorer because of all the bad news,” says Hunter, “and so your behaviour begins to change. Everyone cuts back.”

Some people do more than that. They panic.

“People who have been in the city 40 years are telling me that they’ve never seen this degree of volatility before,” Hunter says. “Panic overtakes logic. Just a few people running round like headless chickens can infect others because people look at the headless chickens and say: What do they know that I don’t? In the past they used to say that the market was driven by one prevailing emotion – greed or fear; this time it’s a cocktail of both.”

The result was an orgy of frenzied selling in which £2.7 trillion was wiped off the value of shares globally in a single week of extraordinary financial mayhem in October. This was when a crisis that had for months seemed confined to the world of banking began to ripple out into the real world.

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