Tags Posts tagged with "Suicide"

Suicide

Words are the symphony that warms the skin and colors the silence.

Words can be like the sound of reinforcements coming over the horizon when we feel penned down by an adversary. They rescue us just as we use them to swaddle others in their warmth.

As we make the transition from Halloween to Thanksgiving, Black Friday and, eventually, the December holidays and the new year, we can take solace in the anticipation of words that provide warmth through the darker days of winter.

We might take a trip to Central Park, where the sound of sleigh bells from carriages around a corner alerts us to the appearance of an approaching horse, even as the animal might remind us of a city that predated internal combustion engines.

Just the words “sleigh ride” might inspire our minds to play a song we performed in high school.

Words can also convey the remarkable scents of the coming seasons, with the air carrying the mouthwatering Pavlovian cue from gingerbread houses or holiday cookies.

I recently attended a wedding where a few well-chosen words triggered an almost immediate and reflexive “awww” from an audience delighted to hear how much a younger brother was inspired by his older brother, the groom.

Reading about how important our coat donations are can inspire us to rummage through our closets to help a child or an adult become more comfortable in the frigid air.

Well-chosen words can provide the kind of environment that empowers people to see and appreciate everything from the inspirational image of a person overcoming physical limitations to the intricate beauty of a well-woven spiderweb shimmering in the low light of winter.

Sometimes, as when a friend or family member is going through a significant medical procedure or crisis, words or prayer or encouragement are all we have to offer, giving us something to do or say as we hope the words provide even a scintilla of comfort.

Words can feel insufficient to express how we feel or what we hope happens when someone who has been in the foreground of our lives for years seems suddenly vulnerable.

Simple tools which we all take for granted, words can take us to a peaceful beach with the sound of water lapping on the coarse sand under our feet, transporting our minds and bodies away from the cacophony of busy lives.

In big moments, athletes often suggest that they are at a loss for words. In reality, their words and emotions are undergoing so much competition that their brain experiences a word bottleneck, with a flow of ideas and words awaiting the chance to dive from the tip of their tongues to the eager ears of their friends, family and fans.

The coming holiday season is filled with diametrically opposed experiences, as the joy of opening presents and reconnecting with friends and family for the first time in months or even a year is counterbalanced by the stress and strain of those people who feel overwhelmed or alone.

People who work at suicide hotlines or as 911 operators can and do use critical words to save people’s lives, bringing their minds back from the brink, restoring hope and offering a comforting verbal lifeline.

We take words for granted because we see and hear them so often, but the right word at the right time can transcend the routine.

Finding words that resonate is akin to strolling into a restaurant and discovering a combination of familiar and exotic flavors, all mixed together with a palate-pleasing texture that energizes us.

Parents listen to learn ways to discuss depression and suicide prevention with their kids during a seminar at Shoreham Wading River High School Nov. 30. Photo by Kevin Redding

“We need to change the way we think about mental health and teen depression .. .and we can start in our homes by keeping an open and honest communication and letting our kids know that it’s okay to say that they’re not okay.”

Ann Morrison, Long Island director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, addresses parents in the Shoreham Wading River school district during a seminar Nov. 30. Photo by Kevin Redding
Ann Morrison, Long Island director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, addresses parents in the Shoreham Wading River school district during a seminar Nov. 30. Photo by Kevin Redding

That’s what Ann Morrison, Long Island director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, told an audience of parents at a seminar at Shoreham-Wading River High School Nov. 30, to help identify warning signs and risk factors for suicide in teens, understand the role of treatment in reducing risk and open a dialogue with their children about the topic.

The school district was impacted by two separate incidents of suicide in October and November. Both were high school freshmen. The school’s administration has been doing all it can to raise awareness and education for both students and parents alike ever since.

The AFSP gives different versions of the seminar throughout the country. Morrison’s presentation spoke specifically to parents. Those in attendance said it was much needed.

“It’s important with all the things that have been going on here,” Thomas McClintock said. “I know they wanted to address it with the children, but it’s good for the parents too, because a lot of us are in the dark on this type of thing. It’s not something you expect or anticipate in your own child.”

Morrison explained suicide has become the second leading cause of death among youth between the ages 10 and 24 in the U.S. after accidental injuries and yet, she said, “we aren’t really talking about it.”

“That’s where a lot of the issue is,” Morrison said. “We need to be more comfortable talking about one of the leading causes of death and why this is happening and how we can prevent it. This isn’t meant to frighten anybody, but to let you know the scope of the problem.”

According to the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor health risk behaviors that contribute to causes of death for teens, 17 percent of high school students reported having seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous year — 13.6 percent reported having made a plan for a suicide attempt in the previous year, and eight percent reported having attempted suicide one or more times in the last year.

“We need to be more comfortable talking about one of the leading causes of death and why this is happening and how we can prevent it. This isn’t meant to frighten anybody, but to let you know the scope of the problem.”

— Ann Morrison

Morrison said suicide is a mental health issue and marginally preventable.
The thought comes about when multiple factors come together, so it’s not related to just one cause, but underlying risk signals to look out for in teens are out-of-character bouts of depression, anxiety, aggression and agitation.

She said parents must act if they notice drastic changes in their children’s behavior, which might include withdrawal from activities they normally enjoy, isolation from friends or social media, changes in sleep patterns and appetite, unexplained rage, or giving away their prized possessions — something that commonly happens when someone is preparing to commit suicide.

“It can be very easy sometimes to mistake mental health symptoms for typical adolescent behaviors,” she said.

Also listen for statements like “I should go kill myself,” “I have no reason to live” and “everybody would be better off without me.”

Morrison stressed to the parents the key to helping prevent suicide among teens is to have a strong and supportive home, where it’s okay to reach out for help.

“You have to be a role model and let them know that in your home, it’s okay for open communication no matter what it is that they want to talk about,” she said. “We need to not be afraid to reach out and ask them if they’re okay. … Make sure you talk to them in private, [and] not at the dinner table, in front of siblings or handled very nonchalantly. Listen to their story, get them comfortable to talk to you, express care and concern. Don’t dismiss their feelings. What we think is a small problem to them might be a bigger problem in their mind.”

Debra Caputo, counselor at the Long Island Crisis Center, addresses parents in the Shoreham Wading River school district during a seminar Nov. 30. Photo by Kevin Redding
Debra Caputo, counselor at the Long Island Crisis Center, addresses parents in the Shoreham Wading River school district during a seminar Nov. 30. Photo by Kevin Redding

Debra Caputo, who works as a counselor at the Long Island Crisis Center, echoed the importance of listening. As someone who answers crisis calls on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, she said just simply listening to someone wrestling with mental health issues is helpful to them.

“When people call, we’re basically just listening and validating their feelings,” she said. “What they’re feeling is real. If we listen non-judgmentally and understand what they’re going through, it can make a world of difference. We want to reassure them they’re not alone and help is available.”

Morrison said that if there’s a true feeling that a child may be at risk or having suicidal thoughts, it’s okay to directly ask them if they are.

“It’s a scary question to ask or think about asking, but we know that when we ask, it opens that conversation,” Morrison said. “And should a child actually have those thoughts, in most cases, they’re going to feel comfortable telling you. Thank them for having the courage to talk to you and contact a mental health professional for an evaluation. Take it seriously. Don’t wait to act. Be calm. Listen to them.”

If you or your child is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The hotline is available 24 hours a day.

For more information about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and their services, visit afsp.org.

You can watch “More Than Sad,” a film presented by the AFSP that dramatizes four situations of high school depression, at www.afsp.org/our-work/education/more-than-sad/.

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File photo

Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad detectives are investigating an incident in which a man and woman were found dead inside a hotel room at Commack Motor Inn, located at 2231 Jericho Turnpike in Commack at approximately 12:33 p.m.

An employee entered a room after the occupants, Omar Torres and Yesenia Abreu, failed to check out at their scheduled time, and discovered them dead inside. The investigation revealed the Torres, 31, of Glendale, killed Abreu, 29, of Glendale, and then shot himself. Abreu’s cause of death remains undetermined. Detectives are awaiting autopsy results from the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner.

The investigation is ongoing.

This version was updated to include the names, now released from the SCPD, of the two people found dead at the Commack Motor Inn. 

A 76-year-old veteran committed suicide on the Northport VA campus last week. File photo

By Victoria Espinoza

A 76-year-old veteran from Islip committed suicide Sunday, Aug. 21, in the parking lot of the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center, according to news sources.

Peter A. Kaisen was pronounced dead at the scene, and according to Northport VA Director Philip Moschitta, in a letter to U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), the body was found next to his car in parking lot I on the campus. Moschitta said an employee of the VA found the body lying on the pavement, and the Northport Police Department, Suffolk County Police Department and FBI responded to the scene.

Moschitta also said there is no record of Kaisen entering the emergency room that day, and that during the 12 minutes he spent at the VA, he didn’t appear to leave the parking lot, as shown on video surveillance.

Multiple news sources have reported that Kaisen was denied service, but Veterans Affairs denies the veteran sought medical attention, although they said the investigation is ongoing.

“Our staff of medical professionals would never turn away an individual who required any level of health care,” Moschitta said in the letter. “We have not found any evidence that the veteran sought assistance from any of our staff, including visiting the emergency room that day. It appears the details of the tragic incident may have been misrepresented in the media coverage.”

Zeldin, a veteran himself, said the loss is heartbreaking.

The loss of even a single veteran in America due to suicide is one too much,” he said in a statement. “Unfortunately, throughout our country, every day 22 veterans take their own life. It is so important to have the best possible understanding as to why these suicides keep happening. For me personally, I have lost more people I know due to suicide than in combat. Our veterans are returning home feeling isolated and alone and feeling like their family, friends and colleagues at work don’t understand what it is that they are going through. What is especially tragic, especially here in Suffolk County, is that a veteran will feel isolated and alone even though there are literally thousands of others throughout our county who would move heaven and Earth to shower a veteran in need with love, appreciation and support.”

Zeldin said that it’s important to note that even though Kaisen’s death was a result of suicide, there are many incidents of veterans whose deaths are incorrectly labeled suicide.

“PFC Joseph Dwyer’s last words when he passed away in 2008 were ‘I don’t want to die.’ He was looking for temporary relief to escape his pain, but he wasn’t looking to leave behind a young widow and 2-year-old daughter.”

Dwyer is known around the country for a famous photo of him carrying a young ailing Iraqi boy during combat. Dwyer’s legacy led to the creation the PFC Joseph Dwyer Veterans Peer Support Program, which provides a safe, confidential and educational platform where all veterans are welcome to meet with other veterans in support of each other’s successful transition to postservice life.

“This program should be in every county in the United States,” Zeldin said. “Losing one veteran as a result of suicide is unacceptable. As investigations into this suicide continue, I will continue to aggressively stay on top of this situation. What is so incredibly important to me and for others is to identify any specific ways at all that this veteran was underserved, so that it can be immediately and completely corrected in order for something very positive to result from this very tragic event. Every time a veteran takes his or her own life, the system has failed.”

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The house at 401 Beach Street was the site of a brutal double murder. Photo from Port Jefferson Village historical archive

“Silent but smiling, Henry hit William again and again, leaving the young man lying senseless on the carpeted floor.”

It’s a story that unfolds like a dark novel. A member of a prominent family in a quiet, seaside village snaps one day and beats his relatives to death at the home they shared, splattering blood everywhere, before hanging himself in the backyard barn. A child who narrowly escapes the massacre grows up to be a successful businessman but will remain forever haunted by his memories.

The 1857 murder-suicide on Beach Street shocked the Port Jefferson community and would likely still shock residents today.

It could have all started with the reportedly turbulent relationship between Henry Walters and his wife of three years, Elizabeth Darling-Walters. Or perhaps it was the feud between Walters and his wife’s son-in-law William Sturtevant that was boiling into legal action despite the two living under the same roof.

According to a narrative written by former Port Jefferson historian Ken Brady and published in the Port Times Record 10 years ago, the gossip around the village was that Walters, 57, and Darling-Walters, 46, fought frequently, with things so bad that they did not share a bed. The husband, a carpenter and a farmer, felt ignored and was “worried that his wife would leave her substantial estate to Martha Jane and Emmet,” her children from her first marriage to the late Matthew Darling, one of the founders of the nearby Darling Shipyard on the west side of the harbor.

The Darling family was originally from Smithtown but built their Port Jefferson shipyard in 1832 and quickly became prolific, building 13 ships during that decade alone.

A house at 401 Beach Street was the site of a brutal double murder. Above, a view of the home in the distance, overlooking a frozen Port Jefferson Harbor. Photo from Port Jefferson Village historical archive
A house at 401 Beach Street was the site of a brutal double murder. Above, a view of the home in the distance, overlooking a frozen Port Jefferson Harbor. Photo from Port Jefferson Village historical archive

If the chatter is true, Walters showed warning signs of a violent outburst. Brady wrote, “In a creepy attempt to win back his wife’s affections, Henry bought a shroud from local coffin maker Ambrose King. Walters often wore the white burial sheet about the homestead, threatening to commit suicide if Elizabeth did not return his love.”

At the same time, the farmer’s feud with Sturtevant and his father, fellow ship carpenter Amasa Sturtevant, who also lived on Beach Street, had reached a climax the day before the son-in-law’s murder — according to Brady, Walters received a letter from William Sturtevant’s attorney, Thomas Strong, warning him to “retract statements he had made about young Sturtevant” by Nov. 21, the day of the bloodshed, “or to expect a slander suit.”

That Saturday morning in the white, one-and-a-half-story home, Darling-Walters was eating breakfast with the young Sturtevant couple when Walters, finished feeding the horses, grabbed an iron bar and rushed into the dining room. According to Brady, the son-in-law was bludgeoned to death first with blows to the head, “splattering brain matter on the walls and furniture.” Then Walters went after his wife and 20-year-old stepdaughter, who both fled outside.

“Elizabeth tried to shield herself from the savage blows, but soon fell to the ground mortally wounded, her skull fractured and dress soaked with blood.”

Martha Jane Sturtevant was spared when Matthew Darling’s younger brother, Beach Street resident John E. Darling, heard his seriously injured niece’s screams. Brady said when Walters caught sight of the man, he went back inside and looked for 11-year-old Emmet Brewster Darling. But the boy was hiding under a bed in the attic and, while his stepfather was in another room, ran down the stairs and escaped Walters’ pursuit.

“Her barn was haunted by the ghost of Henry Walters, whose terrifying screams supposedly echoed over the harbor.”

That’s when Walters went into the barn, put a white handkerchief over his face and hanged himself. According to Brady, the murderer had neatly folded his coat and vest and placed them on a bench.

Despite his traumatic experience, Emmet Darling, who also went by E.B. Darling and whose first name has sometimes been misspelled as “Emmett,” grew into a productive adult. According to former Cedar Hill Cemetery historian George Moraitis, Darling took over his family’s shipyard and married twice before his death almost 30 years after the murders.

His elder sister moved on to a degree — in his written history “Forevermore on Cedar Hill,” Moraitis noted that Martha Jane later remarried, to Capt. Oliver Davis. But Brady said the woman lived in the same house where her mother and first husband were murdered until her own death in 1906, “despite claims from some villagers that her barn was haunted by the ghost of Henry Walters, whose terrifying screams supposedly echoed over the harbor.”

No one else will live in the murder house, however — both the home and the shipyard property have been torn down and rebuilt. The Port Jefferson Village historical photo archive notes that the Port Jefferson Fire Department burned down the home during a drill 60 years ago, on Jan. 22, 1956, and a Suffolk County sewer facility took its place. The Darling shipyard, on the other hand, eventually became a power plant.

Darling-Walters is buried at Cedar Hill with her first husband and daughter, and William Sturtevant at his own family’s grave site there. Emmet Darling rests at Oak Hill Cemetery in Stony Brook with his second wife, Julia A. Oakes.

According to Moraitis, the killer’s burial place is unknown.

Members of TULIPS, including Philip Schoppmann, second from the right, celebrate the officer’s Excellence in Suicide Prevention Award. Photo from Philip Schoppmann

Police Officer Philip Schoppmann, a Smithtown resident, has been awarded the Excellence in Suicide Prevention Award. Schoppmann is a Suffolk County police officer at the 5th precinct.

Schoppmann is the founder of Trainers United on Long Island for the Prevention of Suicide, or TULIPS. The volunteer group teaches different communities throughout the state of New York suicide prevention and intervention skills. It was established almost a year ago, and the group travels everywhere, all the way from Buffalo to Montauk.

TULIPS is made up of four trainers and includes social workers, state employees, and a marriage and family therapist. Schoppmann said that the group would help train more than 1,000 people by the end of the year.

“Phil is a huge advocate to raise awareness,” Brooke Yonick, a member of TULIPS and co-worker of Schoppmann said in phone interview. “He works nonstop to do what he can to help anyone in need; police officers, citizens, veterans.”

Schoppmann met the other three members of TULIPS at a training program in Albany, and “he really spearheaded the group by naming us and encouraging us to work together, since we’re all from the same region,” Yonick said.

Diane Sweet, another member of TULIPS, agreed that Schoppmann has been the manager of this organization. “Phil’s got the vision. He is the Indian chief and I am just a very happy follower,” Sweet said in an interview.

Aside from being a member of TULIPS, Schoppmann is actively involved in many other suicide prevention programs. He is a member of the Suicide Prevention Coalition, and he also helped create the Suffolk County police department’s Providing Enforcers Education and Resources group, also known as PEER. PEER supports other area police officers who might be going through troubling times.

Schoppmann received funding through a mini grant from the Mental Health Association of New York State to help create a tool called DISTRACT. DISTRACT is a safety plan to use when working with suicidal individuals.

“We want to distract people from death and help them think about life through this safety plan,” Schoppmann said in a phone interview.

He wanted to create this program because he felt that a lot of suicide prevention programs out there teach you the necessary tools, but do not give you something concrete and tangible to go home with or to give to people with suicidal thoughts. He describes it as a list of tasks for the person to stay safe and stay alive.

“A person can fill this out with you so they feel connected. They can walk away with it, and when they feel depressed and need something to focus on, this can be it,” Schoppmann said.

Schoppmann first got involved in suicide prevention when he was a police officer working in New York City. He volunteered there as a peer support officer, and dealt with police officers who were experiencing suicidal thoughts.

“I was scared,” Schoppmann said. “These officers had guns, and were expressing suicidal thoughts. I had to do something, so I looked into learning skills for prevention.”

When Schoppmann moved out to Smithtown, he carried the ideas of this program with him to Suffolk County, with the PEER program. He resides in Smithtown with his wife Dikea; their two sons, John-Michael and Jordan; and a third baby on the way.

Linda Sherlock-Reich, the final member of TULIPS, said she couldn’t say enough about Schoppmann. “He’s amazing, he’s passionate and he coordinates everything. I always say I think he’s a robot because there is no way a human can accomplish the amount of things that he does.”

If you or a loved one is having suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Suffolk County police car. File photo

Police say a man shot himself on Tuesday afternoon and his Coram house was intentionally set on fire.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, a passerby found the man slumped over in his vehicle at Tanglewood Park on Howe Road in Coram and called police to the scene shortly after 5 p.m. Homicide Squad detectives found the deceased man, 67, had a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Investigation revealed the victim resided at a house that had been set on fire earlier in the day, police said.

Officers had been called to a home on Hartsdale Lane around 3:30 p.m. to what was then an active house fire. The home was not occupied at the time of the incident, police said, and no one was hurt. Arson Squad detectives believe the fire was intentional.

The respective squads are investigating the two separate incidents.