Cheney Free Press -

By JOHN McCALLUM
Editor 

Suicide touches people in more ways than you might think

Write to the Point

 

January 25, 2018



It’s unfortunate, to say the least, but suicide seems to be in the news lately, especially in our area.

The death last week of Washington State University quarterback Tyler Hilinski has garnered much regional and national attention. What draws me to write this column is something a bit closer to home — a suicide that took place Monday evening in Cheney.

We don’t know who the individual was, at least as of this writing. It’s possible we may never know, despite statements by law enforcement that the victim’s name will be released at a later date by the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office.

It’s difficult dealing with suicide in the media. As a rule, we usually refrain from publishing suicide victims’ names, unless they are a public individual or the act is committed in a public manner.

It’s a tough call even in those situations. We want to be, or we should want to be, sensitive to the feelings of family and friends who are trying to cope with the knowledge that not only is someone they loved gone, but they are gone of their own choosing.

Why suicide takes place is a hard issue to tackle. Obviously we can’t ask the person who took their life, and even if they left a note, it’s difficult to piece together the circumstances outside their own writings that might have led to the decision.

In the end, we are left looking back through time to attempt to identify warning signs, real or imagined.

I have had suicide touch my life on several occasions. The first was a friend from my hometown who was dealt a blow to his mental state through drug use in high school and was never able to recover. I’m not sure what finally caused him to feel his life was not worth living, but he eventually did, ending it in the late 1980s.

Another was an individual here in Cheney. He was someone who used to serve me beers when I would take study breaks from my first stint at Eastern Washington University in the mid 1980s by walking down to Goofy’s where he bartended.

Something happened in that same bar 10 or so years ago, and that individual left, walked down to the BNSF tracks where he sat down and was struck by a passing train.

There was another incident we covered at the newspaper not long after where a man drove all the way over here from Western Washington and shot himself alongside State Route 904 on the way towards Tyler.

And a couple years ago, another good friend from my hometown, reportedly despondent over the death of his son through drug use, also decided he had had enough and ended his existence.

If you look through our weekly police reports, you will see that suicide attempts happen with more regularity than we would like — which would be never if possible. It’s lucky when someone is able to intervene, as was the case last week in Airway Heights.

I’m not a psychologist, but it seems one of the ways of averting suicide falls upon all of us. That is we need to listen to people, and I mean really listen. Listen with an ear of understanding, and not merely with the intent to respond.

Life has its ups and downs, and some of us handle those better than others. Where the difference lies is our recognition and admission of this, and realization that we shouldn’t frame others abilities in the light of our own.

There are also people trained to help in this area, who possess the ability to listen. They can be reached by people considering suicide or their friends and family by calling the National Suicide Hotline at (800) 273-Talk (ext. 8255), First Call for Help at (509)838-4428, walking into any hospital emergency room or calling 911.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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