Letters to the Editor

Letter: Suicide crisis

November 28, 2013


To the editor:

Kansas’ suicide rate (not attempts, dead Kansans) has risen 30 percent in the last year. Starting this week, Headquarters Counseling Center, the only Kansas agency on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has cut its hours 33 percent because its broke. This breaks a streak of HQ giving free counseling (suicide and other) every minute since 1969.

How many more dead sons, daughters, fathers and mothers would there have been this last year without a caring, mostly volunteer agency like Headquarters being on those phones.  We are closer to finding out. You get what you pay for, and what you don’t.


Brock Masters 4 years, 4 months ago

So what is the point of writing the letter if you don't offer a solution? As you said the organization is broke so how does it go about getting additional funding to operate?

The, "you get what you lay for," makes no sense in this context. No one is paying for this service.

Brock Masters 4 years, 4 months ago

So why were the funds cut this year and how do you restore them? Come on Jackie tell us.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 4 months ago

Forgive me and please do not be offended, but I have a question that I think is leigitimate. How does talking to a stanger on the phone change your mind about suicide one way or the other? I don't know if there is a solution to this.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

Pointing out other options as solutions to a person's problems, and directing that person to others or other institutions who can offer more professional help. And, of course, pointing out that suicidal thoughts are usually due to depression, which can be helped by antidepressants. Many or most people are not aware of what antidepressants can do to a person's outlook on life. There are many different ones available, and not all of them are expensive. Unfortunately, all of them require a psychiatrist's or a physician's prescription before they can be obtained.

Quite often, a person who is talking about suicide needs professional help, but does not know where to call or go for it. A stranger, if he/she is any good at phone intervention, will quickly develop a rapport with the person on the other end of the phone line, and not seem to be a stranger very quickly. Then, the person is much more likely to listen to suggestions.

Unfortunately, the psychiatric help available for veterans at the VA hospital is not available to everyone. They are well equipped to deal with any sort of psychiatric or general health problem that any veteran might have.

My next comment is going to be a clip of a comment on made here on LJWorld.com on January 26, 2012, with a couple minor errors corrected. But since then, I have recalled and also learned of others, and more have occurred, making the total number at least 10 and maybe 12 or so. I can't lengthen it to include them, because of the 3,000 character limit on this forum.

So about suicide? Boy, can I tell you things about that.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

You never know what will happen from one day to the next.

A friend of mine, J. graduated from the KU School of Pharmacy with a 3.75 or 3.8 GPA, almost straight As. I don't know how many Pharmacy school students graduate with a GPA higher than 3.75, but I'm sure it isn't very many.

1) Later, there I was, looking at J.'s twenty four year old body in his casket. Since he was a well trained pharmacist and had access to any medication he wanted, it was expertly done, very painless, and an extreme shock to everyone who knew him.

2) I had a neighbor, C., down the street, four houses down. I never talked to him, but I did sort of know him. We always waved whenever we saw each other. He used a shotgun.

3) Then there was S., a man I was rather close to. Even though he had very serious health issues and certainly would not be living much longer anyway, it still was a shock. Those pills can really do it to you, now this made two.

Many years before S. had told me that he had spent quite some time explaining to one of his friends exactly how to tie a hangman's noose, right down to the thirteen turns that it's supposed to have. And then he was so surprised when the man he had instructed so well put his new knowledge to good use only two days later.

4) I could hardly believe it when I received that phone call telling me about D. Why? Well, that's the question everyone asks, and there will never be an answer. It didn't make any sense.

I knew him very well, so I knew he was not very happy where he was living, and that he could sell everything and move to where ever he wanted and probably not even need to work.

He was an accomplished concert level pianist. As he was grinning at you, he could tell you jokes with the music he played. I've never known anyone else that was able to do that. You'll never see that though, because the music has died. Pills number three, or at least that's what I was told. And, they didn't find him for a very long time is another thing I was told.

5) Another shock was when I received a long distance telephone call telling me that a very good friend of mine, E., was dead. What that stunned me the most when I learned of his death was that I had talked to him on the phone very late the night before.

The coroner's report claimed he died Sunday night. I knew that wasn't true, because we had been on the phone until after midnight, so the day of his death was actually Monday. But it was not possible to determine the exact time, again due to the circumstances of a rope.

I was the last person he ever talked to. He asked me for some advice. I would have given him very different advice than I did if I had known what he was thinking.

Keep that in mind whenever you talk to someone, because it might be the very last time you ever talk to them. Your words can make a big difference in someone's life, and it might be the difference between life and death.

But you'll never know for sure.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

This is clips of a posting I made in the past. I hope someone finds it to be helpful:

If you are seriously depressed, there are medications that can help a great deal. There really are. But you cannot get them without taking the first step of asking for them. You should never hesitate to make that first phone call for help.

Especially if you feel at all suicidal! You don't have to admit that to anyone, just tell a professional that you are really depressed and there seems to be no real reason for you to feel that way. Or if there is a real reason, maybe you need help to cope with it.

If you have a private physician already, go talk to him or her. Any physician can immediately prescribe a medication for you that is likely to help, and also refer you to a psychiatrist if needed. And do not feel embarrassed to see a psychiatrist, a lot more people see them than will admit to it.

And, some of the medications are the $4 or $6 a month generic ones you hear about. So, being worried about the cost of medication is no excuse.

It is very important to keep in mind that almost all antidepressant medications take about six weeks to reach full effectiveness. There are a couple that work within hours, but they cannot be used for very long, and will require supervision for their use. So, don't wait until it is really bad to get on the path to a better life.

If you think you might need these numbers, write them down. In a bad situation, you won't be in any kind of mood to try to look for them.

1) To talk to someone NOW, call Headquarters at 841-2345. With the recent budget cuts, the phone may or may not be answered by someone that can help you. Remember 84, then count. If you can get help there, you will be referred to someone who will know who you should call next.

2) If you don't have much money, call Bert Nash at 843-9192 (Lawrence and Eudora) and explain your problem and financial situation. If you are in Baldwin, same number with 888. (888) 843-9192.

3) If you are a KU student, call Watkins Health Center at 864-9500. Don't listen to the recording if you are in a big hurry, press 5 to talk to a nurse right away.

4) If you are a veteran without much income, you can call the Veteran's Administration hospital at 1 (800) 574-8387. But, it may take some time to get an appointment if you do not already have a VA patient card. I would certainly urge anyone that is possibly eligible for VA health care to take their DD-214 to 2200 Gage in Topeka and apply for one. There are also VA hospitals in Leavenworth and Kansas City. If you have a VA patient card, it is good at any VA hospital anywhere in the USA. Get a patient data card before you need it, because you may need to apply for one and be approved, and that may take some time.

5) And, in a really bad situation, you can always call 911. The police will give you good advice about what to do, listen to them. They have heard it all before, and won't be shocked at all by your story.

Addie Line 4 years, 4 months ago

Thank you Ron, for sharing and also for the information.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 4 months ago

Yes, thank you Ron, you have answered my question very well and now I am glad that I asked it. I will take what you wrote very seriously. I am now thinking that to someone who is suicidal somthing that a stranger says or does may be the final staw and they may see this as a sign that they are supposed to die.

We should all learn to watch how we talk to others and treat them. Maybe no conversation is an idle one.

Greg DiVilbiss 4 years, 4 months ago

Ron, In addition to possible medication, it is important to see a therapist that specializes in helping you understand your depression and the trigger/causes or looking at the underlying issues that are causing the depression, for example, if you are being bullied and as a result you experience depression no amount of pills are going to help as long as you are being bullied. You need tools and techniques that can be used in crisis or in depression that can help you navigate whatever it is you are going through.

Medication may be a part of the solution but having tools that you can use yourself when hurting, is even more effective and empowering.

Suicide impacts survivors in such a profound and permanent way, the saddest part to me is that depression is relatively short lived and can be overcome.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

A competent psychiatrist should be able to identify when a psychologist (a therapist) is required. It used to be that the distinction between the two professions was somewhat blurred in that a psychiatrist used to be a "talk it out" person, but today those two professions are regarded as being very different.

One big difference is that in order to work as a therapist, you don't have to be a medical doctor first before you go back to school for another two years, followed by a year of internship, which is what is required to become a psychiatrist.

To be a psychologist, I believe you only need four years of college, which would then be followed by one year of internship. There is no need to be a medical doctor first to be a psychologist.

Today, as opposed to 25 or 35 years ago, a psychiatrist treats a patient as though there is an organic problem in the brain, and a psychologist treats a patient as though there are underlying situational causes, or an inability to effectively process and deal with a situation.

I've been around long enough to see the very big change in the way psychiatrists treat patients. It is true that medications are used much more often, and it is also true that today much more effective medications are available than there were 20 or 30 years ago.

You mentioned "depression is relatively short lived and can be overcome."

While that statement may be true in some cases, it is not generally true. If depression really is "relatively short lived and can be overcome," there certainly is no need for a psychiatrist, and a brief visit with a psychologist, or maybe a few visits, would be all that would be needed.

A psychiatrist is required for what is referred to as Clinical Depression, or the depressive mode of the Bipolar Disorder. Generally speaking, the vast majority of suicides are due to one of those two types of mental illness. Sometimes they are treatment resistant, but in most cases a psychiatrist can find a medication that will help a great deal.

Addie Line 4 years, 4 months ago

A licensed, clinical psychologist is a doctorate degree. Some people practice counseling with a masters and license in say, clinical social work but are not considered psychologists.

Many psychiatrists nowadays recommend a combination of medication and therapy to treat mental illnesses such as depression and bipolar disorder. The best results tend to come from a combination of these two approaches, with therapy teaching coping mechanisms and helping discover some of the external forces affecting the persons mental state while the medication management regulates the chemical imbalance. Some psychiatrists do their own "talk therapy" while others just manage medication/shock therapy and refer clients to psychologists or licensed therapists.

It is true for some, usually situational, depression is short lived. But for many it is a result of a chemical imbalance or hormonal change (postpartum depression) and it is a lifelong battle.

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