It’s often said that the bigger they are, the harder they fall. That saying probably describes the situation in the crypto market more than anything.
When the last bull run started in early 2020, the market was the best place to be. The price of Bitcoin rose exponentially, and like a rising tide, it took almost every project along with it. People in the community were innovating on a day-to-day basis, and venture capitalists were blowing cash like they had a limitless pit of it.
NFTs and play-2-earn projects got simply insane valuations. Everyone wanted to have a piece of the crypto pie, and in a way, a lot of people did. That period probably made hundreds of millionaires out of ordinary people.
But even the highest of highs don’t last forever, and the dizzying rise of crypto couldn’t be maintained. Something had to give.
The Birth of the Bear
The unprecedented investment of cash into crypto ensured that the ecosystem had become joined at the hip with the traditional economy. In simple terms, DeFi was seeing too much money at the same time from TradFi. Ordinarily, that would be great news. But it also meant that if TradFi got ill, DeFi got ill as well.
And TradFi got ill. The invasion of Ukraine by Russia drove up energy prices, which led to an economic chain of reaction that ended in the Federal Reserve raising interest rates. This reduced the appetite investors had for risk. And of course, this reduced their willingness to invest in crypto.
Once these dynamics played out, it was clear that crypto was heading for a bear market. However, what people didn’t know was that the bear would not just wipe out money, it would wipe out lives as well.
The “Too Big to Fail” Fantasy
As investors continued to pour money into the market, they created some sustainable businesses. However, they also created some unsustainable behemoths that were regarded as too big to fail.
Those who regarded these businesses as too big to fail forgot one important thing. These businesses are such because of government subsidies and bailouts. Crypto was (and is) actively anti-government bailout, and no government was going to bail out crypto behemoths no matter what.
One by one, these businesses began to fail. The first to hit the dust was the Luna network. The network was backed by the myth of an algorithmic stablecoin, and its fall erased around $300 billion from the crypto ecosystem.
At this point, many people thought that was the worst that could happen to crypto. But things were just starting to get bad. The next business to fall was 3AC, one of the biggest capital players in the ecosystem. Within days, 3AC assets, which were worth billions of dollars, were worth mere thousands.
Several companies were also affected, with companies like Voyager, Finblox, blockchain, Genesis, and BlockFi getting hit as well.
And even that wasn’t the worst to happen. In November of 2022, a bank run on the second-largest decentralized exchange in the world led to $8 billion in customer deposits disappearing.
All these shocks not only brought institutional powers in the ecosystem to their knees, but they also had real consequences on the lives of people.
The Déjà Vu of the Bear
For new investors in crypto, this is the most critical time in the ecosystem. The amount of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) in the market is so palpable that many have decided to give up entirely.
But old players in the ecosystem understand that this has all happened once before. In 2011, the price of Bitcoin fell from an all-time high of $32 to $0.01. This wiped out millions of dollars in value and left thousands of people “holding the bag.”
But within two years, the coin was ascending once more. The same thing happened in 2015 and 2018. Veteran players in the ecosystem are no strangers to extreme bear markets, and to them, this is just one of those markets.
However, each time the bear comes, it takes some people along with it.
The Death Toll
When an economic mishap happens, people are quick to ask exactly how much was lost. The papers report almost exclusively on the economic impact of the misfortune. They do this while leaving out the real impact these economic disasters have on the lives of ordinary people.
The Man In Taiwan
Immediately after the Luna crash, Taiwanese law enforcement found a man dead on the streets outside his apartment. He’d committed suicide by falling from his window.
The man lived in a luxury apartment building, so he was reasonably well off. However, even the warmth of living in such an expensive building couldn’t save him. In the early hours of May 24, 2022, he stepped out of his window and fell to his death.
The man was 29 years old, and according to the police investigation, he’d not left a suicide note. There was also no sign of struggle in his apartment, and no one had broken in.
After investigating further, the police found a text message where the man complained that he’d lost 99% of the value of his Luna tokens in just two days. He’d invested about $2 million in the tokens, and only about $1,000 remained.
An Indian man named Ramalingaswamy decided to take the drastic option of suicide because of his crypto losses. The man booked a hotel room and then consumed poison after he’d locked the door.
After a while, the hotel workers called the police because they couldn’t access his room. The police arrived, found a way to open the door, and found him dead. The police searched the room and found a suicide note that he’d left for his wife.
According to his family members, Ramalingaswamy had been investing in online trading via a cryptocurrency app. He initially invested a little money and had gotten good returns. Hence, he decided to invest a lot more, and that led to devastating losses.
Unfortunately for Ramalingaswamy, he’d lost a lot of money, and he’d raised a bulk of it through loans. The people who’d lent him the money pressured him, and they even took his car. This pressure eventually led to him killing himself.
Stephen Reale took his own life after sending a distraught voice note to his friend. He told his friend to donate his organs if he could, and told his ex-girlfriend that he had “lost everything.”
Before Stephen’s untimely death, he was a Bitcoin Trader. While not too much is known about the exact cause of his suicide, his messages suggest that he’d lost a great deal of money to crypto.
This loss plunged him into a deep depression and drove him to take his own life. In the end, his lifeless body was found by passersby in a wooded area of London.
A Family Affair
Three members of a family were found dead in South Korea around the same period as the Luna crash. A car belonging to the family was retrieved from the waters off the island of Wando.
Inside the vehicle were three dead bodies. The bodies were that of a 10-year-old, her 36-year-old father, and her 35-year-old mother. The family had presumably gone on a vacation, but after a while, the 10-year-old’s school alerted the police to the absence of the family.
After investigations, the police found the family’s car and retrieved the bodies from it. Further investigations revealed that the family was in dire financial trouble and had googled Luna, sleeping pills, and a way to “make an extreme choice.”
All these made it quite likely that the family had committed suicide because they had lost all their money on the Luna network.
Before the bull run of 2020, Bitcoin suffered a massive loss of value that made a Chinese man lose a huge chunk of his savings. This loss was quite devastating because the bulk of the money belonged to his parents and his wife’s parents.
Zheng, the man in question, told his wife about his plans to commit suicide because of the losses. However, she convinced him that if he had to die, they had to die together. The couple then decided that they wouldn’t just commit suicide but also kill their daughter as well.
Zheng first killed his daughter and threw her into the sea. After that, he took his wife’s hand and they jumped into the sea as well. However, Zheng survived the jump, while his wife didn’t.
After he was rescued, he confessed his crimes to the police and was made to face the law. Ironically, by the time Zheng was in court, the price of Bitcoin had almost doubled. If he’d just waited a little longer, he might have never had the cause to take such drastic measures.
Blood on Crypto’s Hands
All these deaths reveal that more and more people are taking their own lives due to their involvement in cryptocurrencies. It’s a difficult problem, and it’s one that even the biggest stakeholders in crypto are unwilling to face.
However, the solution to this problem isn’t to hide from the uncomfortable facts. The solution is to own up to them and understand that the ecosystem, as a whole, needs to become more transparent and safe.
It’s easy for the people up on Wall Street to see each bear market as a mere economic misfortune. But it rarely is. It ends up having life-or-death consequences for real people.
The mission to make crypto a safe ecosystem for everyone isn’t easy or simple. Some may argue that it’s impossible. Be that as it may, the ecosystem will not last for much longer if each bear market comes with its batch of suicide victims. In other words, crypto either gets it right now, or there will be no crypto to get anything right in the future.
On the Flipside
- One might argue that even TradFi has the same problem with suicides during periods of economic downturn.
- Many crypto-related suicides are caused by irresponsible investing habits, which are due to faults in human nature, not crypto.
Why You Should Care
Crypto suicides are an important issue in the ecosystem, and they outline just how bad things can get. They also point out an important problem with safety that crypto stakeholders need to solve quickly for the ecosystem to grow any further.