Ruth Madoff, wife of disgraced financier Bernie Madoff, who seduced and duped colleagues into a Ponzi scheme that wiped out their savings, has admitted that she and her scheming husband impulsively planned to kill themselves. Their act highlights death wishes thousands of people sadly have. Here are some issues from a psychological point of view:
1) If the Madoffs really wanted to die they could have succeeded. People who are smart enough to con colleagues out of so much money, as in Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, are smart enough to know how many sleeping pills to take to insure not waking up. They would also know what pills they were taking (i.e. Ruth said she didn’t know if they took Ambien or not). Their act of taking pills and then being surprised when they woke up in the morning shows that they likely really wanted – as many people do – to go to sleep and have all their problems disappear in the morning.
2) No doubt the Madoffs are both depressed. Suicide, after all, runs in the family. Their son Marc committed suicide in his Manhattan loft on the second anniversary of his father’s arrest. But the son did it in a more violent way- hanging himself. And he was evidently very intent on being successful, because his first attempt with a cord did not apparently work—the broken cord was found nearby. He strung himself up again with another cord, that worked. That shows determination.
3) Lack of success with a sleeping pill overdose to kill oneself seems to run in the family. This is not uncommon. Apparently son Marc had made an earlier attempt (before his hanging) with pills – the way his parents supposedly tried – had not “worked.”
3) The Madoff’s suicidal ideation and attempt highlights the act as (what we hear so often) a “cry for help,” but it is also despair that there is “no way out” of the person’s current desolate situation and mental state. The Madoffs were caught in the$18 billion financial deception and there was no way out. Also narcissistic and powerful people in the high life, like the Madoffs, who fall from grace and their position, suffer tremendous humiliation, which can add to suicidal ideation.
4) Double (husband-wife) suicide pacts – and acts -- have happened in other cases. Just a few days ago a husband and wife in New York, reportedly under financial problems, committed suicide together.
5) Ruth Madoff’s admission of the suicide attempt is certainly also a public relations ploy to sell more books she agreed to her son that she would help promote. It can also be a way to elicit a bit of public sympathy, since they were so besieged by hate mail, and could be “the most hated couple in America” (next to Casey Anthony being dubbed the “most hated woman in America”).
6) One predictor of suicide is a previous attempt. It was said that Bernie Madoff was under suicide watch after being exposed, and that he thought of it (but stopped because of thinking of helping recover the money and also of his family). Now that their attempt is so public, it will likely prevent another attempt.
7) Mrs. Madoff was quoted as saying that when she woke up after the night that ended up of sleeping off the pills, “I’m not sure how I felt about him waking up.” One interpretation of that is tremendous anger, that she would have wished her husband had died—maybe because of her anger at him, that her charmed life was ruined, or saving him the pain of facing it (although she is the one who thought she didn’t know how she would face it).
8) With the Michael Jackson trial underway and the defense claiming suicide, and Ruth Madoff now talking about suicide attempts, the publican learn valuable lessons about suicide. When you feel the thoughts of ending it all, immediately seek help. Go to the nearest emergency room and see a psychiatrist. Choose life and convince yourself that your family needs you, no matter what, and that you are strong enough to face the consequences.
see abc.com news story by Susan James about Ruth Madoff's confession for excellent info about drugs that kill and don't kill.