Paying off student loans is by no means an easy prospect. Often, those monthly payments can eat up an uncomfortably large chunk of borrowers' income, and for those who took out private loans, variable interest rates can result in increasingly high payments over time -- an unquestionably depressing scenario.
But while it's clear that taking out student loans can wreak havoc on borrowers' finances, here's a less obvious consequence: suicide.
One in nine borrowers with $80,000 to $150,000 in student debt said they've contemplated ending their lives because of it, according to a survey by Student Loan Planner. And more than half the respondents had experienced depression because of their debt.
If your student debt has become so overwhelming that you are having suicidal thoughts, you may be finding it hard to see a way through. But there are some ways that you can make the burden more manageable.
1. Negotiate your payment terms
If paying back your student debt feels impossible, seek help from your lender, whether you took out federal student loans or private loans. If you're dealing with the former, you can look at getting on an income-driven repayment plan, under which your monthly loan payments will be recalculated and limited to a reasonable percentage of your income. Federal student loans also offer you the option to hit pause on your payments for a period of time via deferment or forbearance.
If you took out private loans for college, these protections don't exist in an official capacity -- but that doesn't mean your lender won't work with you. Reach out, discuss your hardship, and see if your lender will rework your repayment terms. Doing so could make that debt far more manageable, thereby alleviating some of the stress you are facing.
Refinancing is the process of swapping an existing loan for a new one with more favorable terms, and it's an option to consider if you borrowed privately for college and your lender refuses to budge on your monthly payments. If you're able to refinance your debt to a lower interest rate, it'll cost you less money to pay off, and it'll make your monthly payments easier to work into your budget. Refinancing generally doesn't make sense for federal loans, though, because those come with relatively low interest rates to begin with.
3. Ask family for help
It's never easy to ask for help. But, perhaps your parents might be able to throw a little money your way to help you tackle your debt. Or they might be able to support you in other ways such as letting you move back in with them to save on rent, or helping you hold down a second job.
Or maybe your grandfather intends to leave you a small inheritance and, if looped in on your situation, would be more than willing to share some of that money in his lifetime. Although there's no guarantee that your family members will be able to step in and help you pay down your debt, if you feel as if you are running out of options, it's certainly worth asking.
The fact that a significant number of student loan borrowers are considering suicide is downright disturbing. If you're struggling with student debt, pursue the above options to make it more affordable. And also, more importantly, if you are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, seek help from a mental health professional. There are several organizations such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) who can help you.