||Med For Depression
||Man Didn't Like the Way Antidepressant Made Him Feel: Kills Self
Paragraph 25 reads: "Bobby Asbill did recognize his own problem. He went to a doctor three weeks before his death and was put on an anti-depressant. He didn’t like the way it made him feel, and the doctor switched him to another anti-depressant. Three days later, he killed himself."
Sunday, Oct. 03, 2010
Hidden wounds how to prevent suicideBy JOEY HOLLEMAN - firstname.lastname@example.org
As stunning and sad as a high-profile suicide such as Kenny McKinley’s can be, suicide prevention groups hope the former University of South Carolina football star’s death can prompt life-saving conversations.
Simply causing people to talk about an all-too-often taboo subject is an important first step.
“Stigma kills,” said John A. Brown Jr., president of the S.C. chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “It keeps you from asking for help. Sometimes it keeps a family member from asking for help.”
- What to do? An average of more than 500 South Carolinians commit suicide each year, deaths that are preventable.
- Take action. If you feel a suicide threat by a friend or loved one is real and imminent, rush them to a local mental health clinic (during the work week) or hospital emergency room. A list of mental health clinic phone numbers and addresses is at scdmh.org.
- Do research. After seeking treatment, go online to advocacy Web sites for tips on dealing with mental health issues. Try scdmh.org, afsp.org, mha-sc.org, nami.org, hiddenwounds.org and suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
- Reach out to others. The largest suicide survivor support group in the Midlands meets on the first Tuesday of each month from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1715 Broad River Road, Columbia.
- Take a walk. The state chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has scheduled Out of the Darkness community walks in Spartanburg (Oct. 10), Columbia (Oct. 17), Hilton Head (Oct. 24) and Charleston (Nov. 7). Go to afsp.org for more information.
Mental health problems are like any other illness, said Brown, who also is director of forensics and crisis intervention for the Columbia Area Mental Health Center and takes medication for depression.
Someone who breaks a leg is taken to a doctor without a second thought. The same should be done for someone with a seriously bruised psyche, Brown said.
People need to be willing to overcome the hurdles whether personal, societal or institutional to get help. Just talking about suicide could greatly reduce the nearly 34,000 suicide deaths nationwide each year.
Authorities wring their hands publicly about homicides in a community, but little is said about suicides. Yet there were many more suicides deaths 529 than homicide deaths 381 in South Carolina in 2007, the most recent mortality data available from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Depression, often the underlying cause of suicide, is among the most successfully treated mental illnesses, Brown said. Yet too many people don’t ask for help.
Brown has a friend whose son committed suicide. She had tried to get him help, but he refused. “Mom, if people find out, they’ll think I’m crazy,” he told her.
Brown and others are devoted to changing that attitude.
“We must fight the stigma that keeps people from seeking help,” Brown said.
There is no indication that McKinley actively sought help.
Most of those around the Denver Bronco said they were stunned the young man with the big smile might have been depressed over his football future after a second major knee surgery in a few months. But at least some friends in Denver told police McKinley had mentioned he “should just kill himself” after the most recent surgery.
Friends said they put little stock in that comment or subsequent statements McKinley made about not knowing what to do without football. McKinley always had been incredibly upbeat, the kind of person who lights up a room when he walks in.
Bobby Asbill of Lexington could be the same way ... before he committed suicide in March 2009. Only after the fact did his brother, Keith Asbill, recognize the unbelievable happiness for what it was.
“He was always so happy, regardless of where you saw him and when you saw him,” Keith Asbill said. “But everybody has their good moments and their bad moments. He was using fake happiness to cover up everything that was eating him up inside.”
Like many surviving family members, Asbill beats himself up at times for not noticing the warning signs, even if they were especially subtle in his brother’s case.
“The pain they leave behind is so excruciating,” said Asbill, who arrived outside his brother’s apartment just in time to hear the shot and held his brother in his arms as he died. “It’s overwhelming the why factor. We’ll ask that question until the end of time.”
Bobby Asbill did recognize his own problem. He went to a doctor three weeks before his death and was put on an anti-depressant. He didn’t like the way it made him feel, and the doctor switched him to another anti-depressant. Three days later, he killed himself.
He never told his brother about the depression.
“If I would have known, I would have been more alert,” Asbill said.
DON’T IGNORE THREATS
Candice Morgan, a third-year doctoral student in social work at USC, was well-aware of her family’s history with mood disorders. Yet she couldn’t stop her father from killing himself a little more than a year ago.
“He always said he would do it, so people weren’t all that surprised,” Morgan said. “People ask why we let him get away with it. Well, he was a strong-willed person. He would laugh me off and say he was a strong person and didn’t want anyone’s help.”
Many of Morgan’s family members have threatened to kill themselves, but none had followed through on the threats until her father did.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates people are 25 times as likely to attempt suicide as they are to complete suicide.
But friends and family members shouldn’t play those odds. They need to react to every threat, subtle or obvious.
“If someone says, ‘Man, I feel like killing myself,’ make it important,” Morgan said. “If someone says, ‘I don’t think I can make it through another day,’ make it an issue.”
Mentioning thoughts of suicide is the most obvious of the warning signs.
“It’s a cry for help, and the person doesn’t know how to ask for help,” Brown said. “It may be the first time they’ve experienced these thoughts, and it’s confusing. If they’re saying it, they need help.”
Among the less obvious signs are increased depression, anxiety, hopelessness, self-doubt and use of alcohol or drugs; dramatic mood changes and pulling back from family and friends; giving away prized possessions; and changes in eating, sleeping and performance at work.
If someone you know is showing those signs, talk to them. But do it without being judgmental.
As Morgan says, suicide “is a normal thought, and it’s not bad. Doing it is bad, but thinking about it is normal.”
‘THE KEY IS PATIENCE’
Once you determine a loved one needs help, the institutional hurdles remain. If the threat is immediate, hustle to the nearest hospital emergency room or state mental health clinic. There are 17 mental health centers in the state, and most have multiple sites open during the standard work week. (Go to scdmh.org to find your local center.)
Getting someone to make that first visit with medical professionals can be tough, and it’s often just the first challenge. Finding the proper resources for each case, determining the proper medications and navigating the medical insurance maze can be incredibly difficult.
“The key is patience,” said Helen Pridgen, chairwoman of the S.C. chapter of the National Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “If you go one place and don’t get help, don’t give up. Keep looking for help. Stick it out with that person.”
Anna Bigham fought those battles for months with her brother, Marine Lance Cpl. Mills Palmer Bigham.
Bigham returned to Columbia from two tours in Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder. His sister helped him reach out for help, but private hospitals wouldn’t accept him, saying as a vet with no private insurance he should be going to a Veterans Administration Hospital. But the VA system was too overwhelmed to give him the help he needed when he needed it, Anna Bigham said.
“I’d take him down there (to the VA Hospital), and they would put him in a six-week line,” she said. “I’m smart. I’m good on the Internet. If I couldn’t get help for him, what’s everybody else doing?”
Her brother took his life in October 2009.
Bigham pumped her grief into something positive, starting an organization called Hidden Wounds, aimed at stemming the tide of soldier suicides. Columbia-based Hidden Wounds has put together a network of trained counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists to help veterans until they can get aid from the overloaded VA system.
“I grilled (VA officials) right after my brother died,” Bigham said. “They are overwhelmed and understaffed. We do whatever we can to help them.”
OUT OF THE DARKNESS
While Bigham dealt with her anguish by starting Hidden Wounds, many surviving family members find comfort in organized support groups. The largest such group in Columbia meets the first Tuesday of each month at Westminster Presbyterian Church. But advocates want to get support groups formed in every county.
Asbill attended his first support group meeting in Columbia 10 days after his brother’s suicide. He found others who had experienced the debilitating sense of failure and loss, and they talked about methods for coping with the pain. Now he’s trying to start a support group in Aiken County.
Morgan said her first support group meeting “was better for me than the funeral was. Nobody brought up why he died at the funeral. The support group was a nice way for survivors to come together and talk about things.”
Pridgen, whose son Clay committed suicide 10 years ago, is a huge advocate of survivor support groups.
“After (Clay’s) death, I had so many questions, like so many survivors,” Pridgen said. “I went on this quest. I started reading everything I could on the subject and getting involved in survivor groups. I connected with folks who were going through the same thing.”
Five years ago, Pridgen stepped up her advocacy and organized the first suicide survivors walk in the Midlands. The event has grown to include walks this year in Spartanburg (Oct. 10), Columbia (Oct. 17), Hilton Head (Oct. 24) and Charleston (Nov. 7). Called Out of the Darkness Community Walks, the hope is to shed light on a subject that gets too little attention until there’s a high-profile suicide.
“I have a passion for trying to prevent this loss of life,” Pridgen said. “I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”