Summary:

Last two paragraphs read: "Jamie Gottbrath wasn't sleeping or eating right, and was anxious, his father recalled. At his parents' urging, he went on anti-depressants. His father tried to talk with him, but the son rebuffed those attempts. "

"'I was naive to think that all he'd need was the pills to survive,' Vince Gottbrath said. "

http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060914/NEWS01/609140391/1008

Louisville grapples with suicide problem
Kentucky's rate 12th highest in nation; Indiana is 24th
By Chris Kenning
ckenning@courier-journal.com < mailto:ckenning@courier-journal.com>

The Courier-Journal

Four years ago, 24-year-old Jamie Gottbrath drove a 1983 Plymouth into his parents' garage and left the engine running. He sat on an outdoor deck waiting for the exhaust to build up, then went inside.
His father, Vince Gottbrath, was leaving for work in the morning when he noticed the car running in the garage. He found his son dead of carbon-monoxide poisoning.
Jamie Gottbrath had been depressed about a romantic breakup, but the suicide blindsided his parents.
"I still blame myself," Vince Gottbrath said. "Why … why didn't I see this?"
Jamie Gottbrath's death was one of the hundreds of suicides in Kentucky each year that constitute an obscure but alarming public-health problem, Louisville health authorities said yesterday during a news conference announcing their renewed public focus on the issue.
Kentucky had the 12th highest suicide rate in the nation, at 13.8 per 100,000 residents, according to the most recent statistics from 2003. Most of those involved men using guns. Indiana had the 24th highest rate in the country, at 11.9 per 100,000 people, during the same period.
Officials attribute Kentucky's rate to such factors as higher rates of health problems, poverty, alcohol use and lack of awareness of available services. More accurate death records could also be a factor, state officials said.
In 2003, the most recent year available, Kentucky had 567 suicides, and 2,933 suicide attempts including 409 attempts in Louisville that resulted in hospital admissions. Indiana reported 736 suicides, and the United States 31,484, that year.
"It is (an issue) that has been overlooked for far too long," said Dr. Adewale Troutman, director of the Louisville Metro Health Department. There is plenty of attention to homicide, but "almost none" to suicide, he said.
Troutman said his department and a coalition of groups -- such as the Louisville Suicide Prevention Coalition, public schools and mental-health agencies -- hope to expand assistance and better educate the community about services.
Vince Gottbrath, a member of several suicide-prevention groups, including Survivors of Suicide, said he and others recently pressed Troutman to take a more aggressive stance.
"Our society has a real big problem with even talking about it," he said. "People need to know how to pick up on the signs … and realize how serious it can be; not just shrug it off."
Jim McFarland, who lost his grandson to suicide in 2001, said he is "glad to see the health department raising the profile" of such a complex problem.
Suicides stem from a range of problems, including mental illnesses such as depression. Risk factors include a family history of suicide or depression, feelings of isolation and unwillingness to seek help because of stigma.
Those who commit suicide often want to avoid or end pain in their life, said Jason Padgett, Kentucky's suicide-prevention program administrator.
Experts say getting help is crucial, and Troutman stressed that available services offer counselors 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But he said there still aren't enough resources devoted to the problem in the state.
Last year, Gov. Ernie Fletcher unveiled a statewide education campaign featuring radio and television public service announcements.
A state suicide prevention task force now meets regularly to find ways to promote awareness. On Friday, state mental health officials will gather to stress prevention strategies.
Vince Gottbrath, a construction inspector, knew his son was depressed when he was working during the summer after he'd taken a semester off from the University of Kentucky. He was distraught about the breakup of his first serious romantic relationship.
Jamie Gottbrath wasn't sleeping or eating right, and was anxious, his father recalled. At his parents' urging, he went on anti-depressants. His father tried to talk with him, but the son rebuffed those attempts.
"I was naive to think that all he'd need was the pills to survive," Vince Gottbrath said.
Reporter Chris Kenning can be reached at (502) 582-4697.