Recession takes its emotional toll on cities
The economic downturn could lead to higher rates of crime, divorce, alcohol and drug abuse, depression and suicide.
Portland, Ore. ranks No. 1 on BusinessWeek.com's list of America's unhappiest places. © Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Leslie Storm, director of an Oregon suicide help line, is scrambling to find shelter for a cash-strapped 52-year-old man who says he will hang himself by the end of the week.
The man, who could not work for a couple of months because of a medical condition, told Storm that he is behind on his rent and his roommate planned to kick him out this week. It is the kind of situation she is dealing with more in these days of rising unemployment and evictions.
"He's telling me that he is slipping through the cracks, and it breaks my heart," says Storm, director of the crisis line program of the Oregon Partnership. "He has medical problems and says he can't go live under a bridge."
The Oregon suicide and drug and alcohol help lines received 71% more calls in January 2009 than it did the previous January, including more calls from people having suicidal thoughts because of severe financial stress, Storm said.
The federal government and nonprofit advocacy groups are getting the word out about the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-TALK) and focusing more on other prevention efforts because they are worried that the rising tide of unemployment and foreclosures could lead to more depression, drug and alcohol abuse, divorce and ultimately for the most vulnerable, suicide.
At the same time, the recession has forced state governments to cut back on social services designed to help people in physical, mental and financial stress at exactly the time when demand for those services is greatest, says Susan Byrne Lee, president and chief executive officer of Mental Health America of Northeast Florida.
- MSN Health & Fitness: Depression symptoms, treatments and causes
The nationwide data on suicide lags by three or four years, so it likely won't be known whether suicides are spiking for a few years, by which point everyone hopes the recession will be over. But even before the crisis, suicide rates were higher in certain parts of the country — especially in the Intermountain West, including Montana, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming and Oregon — and lowest in densely populated states such as New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey. It is unclear why this is the case, but researchers believe that people in more rural states might have less access to care, tend to be more isolated and have ready access to guns.
To get a sense of where the pain points are greatest, BusinessWeek.com came up with a list of the 20 unhappiest cities. These are major cities that were ranked based on their rates of suicide, depression, divorce, unemployment, job loss, population loss, crime, amount of green space and cloudy days. BusinessWeek.com gave most emphasis to suicide and depression rates, crime and economic factors. The city with the highest overall score in our index was Portland, the beautiful Oregon city that also has very high depression and suicide rates. St. Louis, New Orleans and Detroit were high on the list, largely because of their rates of crime, unemployment and population loss. Other cities such as Las Vegas and Jacksonville, Fla., ranked high because of their suicide rates and difficult economic conditions.
In Las Vegas, a suicide increase
Mike Murphy, coroner for Clark County, Nev., which includes Las Vegas, said he has noticed an increase in economy-related suicides, but he doesn't have any hard data yet.
He is seeing more suicides involving elderly people, including two recent husband-and-wife suicide pacts. The increase in suicide among seniors could be because of economic conditions. But it could also be because Las Vegas has become a destination for retirees, he said.
He said it is a misconception that Vegas suicides are tied to gambling (though it's impossible to know the precise causes). Murphy said people who take their own lives might have had problems long before they moved to Las Vegas.
"A lot of people will come to communities such as ours to make a new start in life," Murphy said. "But if they bring habits from where they came from, nothing will change except geography."
Las Vegas, it worst than you write. I have lived here for 11 years. I am with a wonderful man that his wife committed suicide for she got into the Gambling really hard. Sad but true. That happened 11 years ago.
There is not a lot to do here that does not have to going to shows or drinking or gambling. You go anywhere there is a slot machine just about. People really can get hooked easy. The water theme part was taken out, the putt putt golf was taken out.
I think that the housing and the economy has made things worse. here I live in a house that was worth about $300.00 a few years ago, now I am lucky to get 65,000 for it and we are upside down. The job market "stinks" and the Schools are the pits and they want to keep taking from our education. I am lucky I do not have SCHOOL AGE children, I Would not put them in the schools here. If we made this state all about education and it being so good, maybe we could draw people to Las Vegas. From Elementary to Colleges. They keep taking away from them... We are loosing out home, and we have no idea where we are going... But it is the worst feeling.... We had great credit up until the big economy went bad. We worked hard for that credit, now we have file bankruptcy, the people in Las Vegas understand it, for you would not believe how many people are having to do it, rolls of houses are boarded up in some places. But if you move to a different state it seems people are not to sure of you if you filed bankruptcy and your credit was excellent 10 years before that. but not anymore . Wonder what will become of Las Vegas, I wish it the best, but about time for us to get out....it is depressing, and I can see why people give up I am sorry to say end it.... If you work for something, your home, the american dream, and one day you loose it, it is not easy...if you have terrible health care that is worse. If you cant find a place for you have file bankruptcy that is sad, it is hard to rent, I have had a pet I have had for 10 years I do not want to give it up either. SO we are moving in a 19 foot travel trailer for now..... People say it is your fault, (meaning our fault) you do not know what happened you do not know what the ECONOMY is like in Vegas so please wear my shoes before you put me down or anyone else from Vegas. Help us with opening arms in your state for we are good people willing to work and willing to pay our way... but it is hard when the economy is as bad as LAS VEGAS!!!!!!!!!
if not pray for me and my family.... God Bless
Scranton, Pennsylvania is a depressing city. Poverty, political corruptness, nepotism has been running ramped for decades, unless you have money, power and/or connections it's almost impossible to get a good job. Almost everything is the area is so corrupt. People in positions of power are corrupt, but they place their unqualified family and friends into jobs that someone else is much more qualified to do. It's a good-old-boys network here, always has been always will be. We have very good colleges here, but a good portion of the students leave because it's hard to get a good job here. A good portion of the people are down right mean, backstabbing, self-centered, bullying and ignorant, but I guess that's almost everywhere. The city buildings are growing more empty everyday. The weather is typical of the Northeast, it usually sucks. People are having children that they shouldn't have and the taxpayers, people with jobs, have to pay for them. This has got to be the "armpit" of Pennsylvania. P.S. -There should be a list of some great places to live. I traveled a lot in the US and in Europe. San Diego, California is by far, in my opinion, the greatest place to live.....to bad California is nearly bankrupt, with 11-12% unemployment.....I was thinking I would eventually move their someday.
My daughter is graduating next year and we are checking out colleges. I sell high end real estate in Sarasota Florida. I use credible data supplied by online resources to determine what agents to target for referrals and where to spend my marketing dollars. On first blush, I looked at the top ten list of miserable cities and printed Jacksonville to give to my 17 year old daughter eliminating the University of North Florida (which is her top pick) because of your article. Then I got smart and read the blogs. I think when someone writes as this author did, picking trigger points to determine a cities value without really looking at the big picture you can change the direction of the city's pulse. It is kind of like calling a chubby girl fat in high school. Maybe she is on a diet and heading in the right direction. You have just completely derailed her progress and changed her path. Each town has it's glory.
I had dinner two nights ago with three couples from Germany. We discussed the rules of baseball, whether you can turn left of a double yellow line into the golf club and the american automobile industry. We discussed Real Estate. Here in Florida 45-50% (as reported by the National Association of Realtors) of our home sales are distressed properties. Our homes are selling at a discounted rate of 30-50%. A beach front property on the north tip of Siesta Key with a boat dock and lift in the back yard just listed two days ago for 899K. (Lowest recorded sale in the last three months has been 1.7M) It has two offers on it already and since it is a short sale will probably receive a dozen or more offers before the bank takes a look at the offers. The reality is that this is a National problem. All of it. The fact that baseball is loosing it's interest by younger generations as our nations favorite past time. That our nations automobile industry is in dire straights. And our real estate market, which affects everyone who prides themselves in owning a home, has been in decline for years. I for one could do without the negative spin on it all. I still love baseball. I still drive a car and I still own my home. (So far.) I have raised five kids who live in different cities across the US. And yes, we are in a transitional time in the history. Maybe we could get our journalists to be held to a different level of reporting. Maybe my daughter will still choose UNF and she won't have to be on anti depressants.
There aren't any better hospitals, doctors or nurses anywhere in the world than in Portland, Oregon.
Medically speaking ,Portland, Oregon in the #1 city to live and grow old in.
I worked in Portland, Oregon for 14 years , then moved to New Mexico.
I miss Portland so much that I try to get up there at least 5 times a year to visit friends/family and just be around the lush green trees, grass and beautiful flowers in the NW. I also enjoy the shopping there, the fine gourmet restaurants and the night life...
I would move back there in a New York second !!
Portland ,Oregon is one of the BEST cities to live/work if you ask me.
I read this posting with curiosity and all the responses,,,I live in Florida,,,,beautiful,,,,and yes, I am from Tampa,,,,and to the post that said all Floridians are stupid,,,I am not,,,I have a Master's degree and am working further,,,I do agree Tampa is not much fun, but as a single parent raising 2 children,working nights,putting my daughter through college,as a Nurse I work long hours, I am on the disaster team worldwide and sometimes find myself gone for months at a time, I have to say Florida is gorgeous,,,and I reprimand myself often for not taking advantage of such gorgeous beaches that are 15 mins away,,,,I get so busy with what is expected I forget what is around me,,,,,bottom line,,,it is you that makes you happy, I have been miserable here so many times,,,so busy, so stressed,,,wishing I was back in my mountains of Wales, enjoying the serenity,,,,forgetting I have the beach,I only go there when my "problems" overwhelm me,,,,I go to the beach and it puts in perspective how little I am and therefore my problems are minute,,,after a trip to the beach I can handle anything,,,and yes, I grew up in dismal climates,,,I miss the seasons,,,but do not miss the grey of sky,,,the drizzling rain,,,,,I do so miss the green, the mountains,,,and the castles,,, I am grateful, I have a job, a good job,,,,my heart hurts to see the misery in this country,,,I thank God it is not me,,,I help as my schedule allows,,,my children and I work soup kitchens, donate as much as we can,,,I am not a religious person but I am thankful for what I have,,,which is not much,,,but my mantra is and always has been "But for the Grace of God go I",,never been in a church, do not beleive in organized religion,,,,but I do talk to him often,,more ranting and raving than talk,,,but he knows me by now,,,point is,,,you are where you are,,,look hard enough there are redeeming qualities wherever you are,,,it is easy to jump on the negative,,,,just a stupid idiom I learned in school,,,,a frown burns 80calories,,,,a smile burns 60 but does your whole body good,,,,my mantra,,,,happiness is healthier,,,you get more bees with honey than vinegar
I am very surprised that Dallas, Texas is not listed as one of the most unhappy cities. People have lost the Southern Manners around the time of the influx of 'yankees' and other non-southerners invaded Texas. Dislike what I write but it is a fact from someone that has lived in Texas all my 52 years. People are rude in Texas. It was not so bad in small Texas Towns until about 2000 but now it is all over Texas.
And Dallas is nothing more than LA without the perks like nice weather when there is no smog, high wages, movie stars, etc.
All the problems associated with LA are present in Dallas. I may have lived in Texas all my life but I am well traveled.
I would take LA over Dallas any day and would move there but it is like swapping the Devil for the Witch. both stink.
But Protland is supposed to composed of old hippies that fled California, isn't it? Maybe that is the problem. The hippy dream is really a bust for too many.
I don't live in Portland, but have been there many times and do find the Northwest as very depressing...there is a "feeling" that hits a visitor once you leave the airport...hard to put a finger on it, but the houses look "sad"...everything is dark and dank...and then with the miserable cloudy, dreary weather, it is no wonder Portland is #1. Sure those few summer days when the sky is blue and Mount Hood is right there is stunning, but too many other days in the year are just too depressing.
And to the guy who thinks Tampa is exciting? Yuck...stupidest people on earth live there and in Florida in general...and too damn hot...Jack-slum-ville is indeed depressing...houses right near downtown that look like they are from poorest parts of Africa. The list is pretty accurate. I travel a great deal and have been to all of the cities on the list but would add, SEATTLE, it is as bad, if not worse than Portland.