One of the most surprising arguments in John Kenneth Galbraith's book on the 1929 crash is his assertion that one of the most iconic images of the era, the stockbroker jumping out a window, doesn't seem to be entirely reality-based.  This time around, it seems to be all too real.  Adolf Merckle, apparently despondent over the fate of his family's overleveraged German business empire, has thrown himself under a train.

I wonder if what Galbraith saw in the unusually low suicide statistics for 1929 was the confounding effect of crisis.  Suicide tends to fall during crises--they take peoples' minds off themselves.  So perhaps everyone outside of Wall Street was too busy watching the stock market collapse to think about the mess of their own lives--but suicide rates leapt for those on center stage.  Certainly, there have been quite a few highly publicized suicides so far that can be directly attributed to the declining markets, and sadly, I doubt we've seen the last.


We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.