Saturday, November 28, 2009

No clear-cut answers left behind after suicides in WY & WI & CA

My wife Chris and I attended a funeral yesterday for Charles, one of my son's best friends from high school. I will use just his first name, out of respect to his family which I barely know. Charles hanged himself at home. He was 24.

Charles and my son Kevin were both hyperkids -- impulsive kids diagnosed at a young age with ADHD. Often in trouble at school -- when they went. They spent many days skateboarding and riding bikes and playing video games. They also drank and used drugs.

We ferried Kevin to a treatment center in Florida when he was 17. He was there for a year and came home clean and sober and has remained so. He lives in Tucson.

Charles took the rocky road. He was in jail for a time but worked his way out with the help of a transition program. Met a girl. Married. They had a baby girl a few months ago.

Things seemed to be looking up for Charles.

The day before Thanksgiving, Charles hanged himself at home. Yesterday was the very sad funeral. Always is when a young person leaves us in this way.

Last March, James Weigl, an Army veteran of Iraq, hanged himself in his garage in Cedarburg, Wisc. He was 25, not much older than Charles. He's one of 129 soldiers and marines who committed suicide during the first half of 2009.

Meg Kissinger wrote an incredible story for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about Sgt. Weigl's life and death. His parents are outraged at the Army that their son didn't get the mental health care he needed. Some say that Weigl shouldn't have been in the service, that he had two medical conditions that should have made him ineligible. One of those was a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

I'll leave it up to you to read this sad story. Getting to the bottom of events like this is what real newspaper reporters do well. We'll miss them when they're gone. Read the article at

Is this weren't enough, NPR this morning featured a pair of stories about teen suicides in California. During the past six months, four Palo Alto teens have killed themslves by jumping in front of trains.

From Palo Alto Online:

Between 20 percent and 23 percent of deaths ruled suicides in Santa Clara County in the past two years were individuals under 30 years old, according to the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner's Office. In both 2007 and 2008, the county had 31 suicides of people under 30. The coroner did not provide city-by-city breakdowns.

Philippe Rey, a psychotherapist and executive director of Adolescent Counseling Service, said Palo Alto's teen suicide rate is in line with national statistics.

That's discouraging. Fifteen suicides a year by young people in a mid-sized city is "in line with national statistics."

Those 129 soldiers and marines who committed suicide in the first six months of 2009 must be "in line with national statistics."

And here are some stats about teen suicides in Wyoming (a bit dated, but still relevant):

Mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spanning the five-year period from 2001-2005 show that suicide rates for Wyoming teens ages 15-19 are more than twice as high as national rates for this same population (WY rate of 17.48 per 100,000 deaths versus U.S. rate of 7.70 per 100,000 deaths). An alarming one in six Wyoming high-school students reported making suicidal plans within the previous year according to the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, representing a 13 percent increase over 2005 data.

It appears that Wyoming's teen suicide numbers ARE NOT "in line with national statistics."

They're much worse.

No comments: