For every 998 homes across the US, one was up for foreclosure last month, according to RealtyTrac. In Nevada the trend is 1 in every 249 homes; in Florida it’s 1:406 followed by Illinois at 1:528, then Maryland at 1:566 and the final fifth in New Jersey at 1:656. These figures not only indicate a rise in home mortgages. Clearly this is a scenario of scary home foreclosures.
The phenomenon brings us a picture of truckloads of furniture queuing at storage lockers. We can see parents with school children in hand waving goodbye to friends in school, not realizing they may never see each other again. All these are because of the home they are losing to foreclosure.
Increased home prices have pushed many families of this generation to be dependent on home loans to afford their home versus renting. Home mortgages overall are a great way for a family to own in place of renting, and allow a measure of increased standard of peace and comfort to the family. With recent events, we have seen escalating foreclosure rates and devaluing property values, many families are having to give up their home, in other words, families are losing their home to foreclosure.
Losing a home to foreclosure is an event that is as life threatening as any disease to families. Dislocation of home regardless of distance from where they used to be creates a feeling of being pushed away, being discriminated, being bullied or abandoned and a bundle of extreme stress.
A psychiatrist-in-chief of Boston’s McLean Hospital, Dr. Bruce Cohen, ranks loss of a home with loss of a job and loss of a loved one as among the top causes of extreme stress and despair.
Psychological effects of losing a home to foreclosure start with feelings that create specific reactions or coping styles. These may be positive or negative. High levels of stress impede sound thinking. Fear and shame that comes with losing a home, incapacitates healthy coping mechanisms. More and more psychological effects surface when families are losing a home to foreclosure. A psychological imbalance is created in these families who are losing a home.
As early as 1800, psychologists have established the importance of material possessions in the lives of individuals. According to American psychologist, William James, the home is a material possession in the life man, which plays that same importance as in living. William James said man’s self is the sum of all that he can call his, not only his body and his psychic powers, but his clothes and his house, his wife and children, his ancestors and friends, his reputation and works, his lands and horses, and yacht and bank account.
When a family is in the brink of losing a home to foreclosure, the increased stress levels could lead to anxiety disorders, depression, and self-destructive behaviors.
Dr. Charles Nemeroff, president of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and chairman of psychiatry at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia says that stress is a huge factor in suicide. Another professor Nadine Kaslow, chief psychologist at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta adds that financial stresses come with significant psychological consequences.
A research by Janet Currie of Princeton University and Erdal Tekin of Georgia State University concludes that there is a link between foreclosure rates and mental and physical health problems, as well as suicide attempts. Their study shows a direct correlation between foreclosure rates and the health of residents in Arizona, California, Florida and New Jersey. A paper published in the Wall Street Journal last year by the National Bureau of Economic Research, showed that an increase of 100 foreclosures corresponded to an 8.1% increase for diabetes and to a 7.2% rise in emergency room visits and hospitalizations for hypertension, among people aged 20 to 49.
Losing a home to foreclosure is not just a localized phenomenon. It is an event that crosses borders. It destroys the very basic unit of human society-the family.
The family unit, which is the building block of American society, determines the total well-being of this land. Thus, a side glance at the psychological effects of losing a home to foreclosure and its impact on the family unit will give us additional insight on the current struggles facing our country and the challenges faced by the people who make it great.