The only way I see myself escaping my student loan debt is to kill myself.
I want you to read that again: The only way I see myself escaping my student loan debt is to kill myself.
Reading that sentence gets me emotional. I can sense the pain. I can feel the despair in the words. It creates a tightness in my chest as I hold back tears thinking about what that means. You can sense the burden that is on her shoulders thinking that the only way out is to end her life. Isn't that the most horrible thing you've read?
You want to know something, though? I've read that sentence twice this year talking to readers here on this site.
And the truth is that there are many more people out there than the two readers that reached out to me. People that we haven't necessarily connected with, but maybe will find this article and feel a little weight lifted off their shoulders.
This blog post is part of the 4th Annual Suicide Prevention Awareness Month blog tour. If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741.
Suicide Is Not The Answer (It Makes Things MUCH Worse)
I'm going to be straight with you on two levels. First, the emotional level, and second, the factual money level.
Suicide is never the answer because there are countless people who love and depend on you. Your mom and dad. Your brothers and sisters. Maybe your children. I know that today you think you're going to do them all a service by taking away a "burden", but I promise you, you being gone will be a 1000x burden and will cause more pain and sorrow that you could even imagine.
No amount of money is worth your life. You can live with student loan debt. You can smile with student loan debt. You can play with your children with student loan debt. Ending your life is not the answer. There are countless ways to deal with your student loan debt, and there are countless people that can help you navigate the confusing and frustrating world that is student loan debt. But that's gone if you take your life.
And you think you're possibly making it easier on your family financially. Well, I'm here to tell you it doesn't. Here's why:
- Your family is NEVER on the hook for your Federal student loans, only you are - so you're not a burden to them financially
- However, if you have a cosigner on your student loans, like 90% of private loans today, if you die, your cosigner (typically a parent) will still have to pay the debt.
So, in situation #1, with Federal loans, you're not a burden. It might seem tough for you today, but you're not impacting anyone else. In situation #2, if you die and have private student loans, your parents could still owe the debt. And with you gone, how are they going to pay it? You're really leaving them with a burden that didn't exist before.
How To Get Help For Your Student Loan Debt
Now, let's talk about your loans for a second, because we know that they are the driving factor of your despair. Being burdened with a debt that you don't think you can ever repay is crippling. You can feel like your debt is suffocating you - both mentally and physically. When you're deep in debt and feel like you have no chance of paying it back, and the phone is ringing with collectors, and you're getting mail, it's a dark time.
But there are several easy ways to get help for your student loans. Follow this simple action plan.
Step 1. Call Your Lender. Too many people are afraid to call their lender. But what nobody seems to realize is that student loans are owned by the government, and managed by student loan servicing companies. These companies are paid for managing the loans - including by helping borrowers stay current. They are actually there to help you. Yes, it's a call center, and yes, you might get a rep that's not very helpful. But many are, and most will be able to point you in the right direction.
Step 2. Immediate Relief With Deferment Or Forbearance. If you simply need relief right now and can't make a payment, ask for a deferment or forbearance. This will allow you to not make payments for a certain amount of time. You don't want to do this too long, because your loan balance will continue to grow.
Step 3. Get On An Income-Based Repayment Plan. These are the best repayment plans for Federal student loans if you're struggling. They will make your payments 10-15% of your monthly income, or less if you're close to or below the poverty line in your state. So, if you have no income, your monthly payment will be $0. And that $0 per month payment counts towards student loan forgiveness. That's a win-win situation right there.
If You Have Private Loans... If you have private loans, there are less options, but there are still things you can do to get help. Some lenders offer programs very similar to income-based repayment and deferment. You can also look at refinancing your loan, which could lower your monthly payment. We break down all the options for private student loans here.
And please, please, make sure you avoid these common student loan scams. When you're the most desperate for help, that's when people and companies prey on you. It's easy to become a victim when you're already hurting inside.
Where To Find Someone To Talk To (Or Get Help For A Friend)
If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out to a counselor. If you or someone you know is talking about wanting to die or kill one's self, feeling hopeless or like they have no reason to live, feeling trapped or having unbearable pain, or think they are a burden to others, please reach out for help.
You can call this hotline and talk to someone 24 hours a day: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
If you see a post on social media, don't ignore it. All of the major social media sites include ways to help a friend in need.
- Facebook: Click here to anonymously report someone as suicidal on Facebook. A member of Facebook’s Safety Team will send the user an e-mail with the Lifeline number and possibly a link to chat with Lifeline counselor.
- Twitter: Click here and select “Self-Harm” to send an e-mail to Twitter reporting a suicidal user. Twitter will send the user a direct message with the Lifeline number.
- MySpace: Click on the “Report Abuse” link that appears at the bottom of every MySpace page and complete the form. MySpace will then send an e-mail to the MySpace user with the Lifeline number.
- YouTube: To report suicidal content, click on the flag icon under a video and select “Harmful Dangerous Acts” and then “Suicide or Self-Injury.” You Tube will then review the video and may send a message to the user that uploaded the video with the Lifeline number.
Some other resources you may find helpful:
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- Project Semicolon
- Open Path Collective
- Debtors Anonymous
You can also check your local college to see if their graduate program in counseling offers discounted sessions.
Remember, you're not alone with your student loan debt. But no matter how you're feeling about your debt, your friends and family need you and care about you more than you could ever realize.
P.S. I encourage you to share this article on social not for me, but maybe for someone who is suffering in silence and this article may benefit. You don't want to learn about it after it's too late. Please share as you see fit.
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him here and here.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.