26 May 2009

Suicide on the CCC

Times-Picayune - Man kills himself by jumping from Crescent City Connection

At approximately 7 a.m. CDT, a young man pulled his car up onto the eastbound Crescent City Connection bridge. He soon shut his car off, exited it and went over to the side of the bridge. Showing absolutely no hesitation, he jumped, ending his life near the corner of Lawrence and Teche streets when he landed.

Things are going very wrong in the area as of late, with all the political scandal and incompetence, but this event is a stark reminder that real people are suffering, too. Many are being injured or killed on the streets at the hands of others, many of those offenders being the ones we forget, the ones we fail.

So, too, this man could have been another of those, another that we as a society have failed. No one is sure as of yet. No identification was found on the body, and even if they did find ID in the car, no info has been released yet.

It is not the manner of death which causes me to raise my voice today. Suicide is, sadly, common in this world. Usually, it is a very heart-wrenching decision for the person attempting it, this I can say from experience, having attempted suicide myself in the past. Thoughts run rampantly through one's head at that ultimate point as one wonders what is left to live for. Some, like me, pull back and decide not to die. Some choose to live. (There's a difference, trust me.) Then there are the ones for whom the only choice is death, so they go through with it.

Everyone deliberates the decision at the critical moment. Most of the time, it's at the point where the very next choice - to jump or not to jump - to fire or not to fire - takes place. It's on the bridge. It's standing there with the gun in one's hand.

Whatever deliberation was made in this case, it was made long before reaching the point to jump. There was nothing that could have been done... it is what makes this case all the more disheartening.

The future of the state is leading to more circumstances like these. There will be more times in the future where nothing can be done, even if the person can be talked down from the critical moment. There's a reason. The quality and frequency of mental health care in the state of Louisiana has been in shambles since even before Katrina, and now it threatens to only get worse.

The state is cutting mental health care. They're closing a major center in New Orleans, and consolidating care in the area to the Northshore. This simply won't work. True, the center they're consolidating to is in better condition than the one being abandoned in New Orleans, but this won't help matters. A vital component to mental health care is engaging the loved ones of the patient, somehow. Most of the time, visitation helps.

So how is it helping them to send them somewhere out of reach of the loved ones? Those with means have no need for centers like this, for they're most likely to secure and afford private care long before institutionalization becomes necessary. No, most of the people ending up in a state-run inpatient center will be the indigent and poor. How many of these people's loved ones will even be able to make it to the Northshore? These are the same people who had to hop on a bus provided by government money to evacuate from Gustav because they simply didn't have the means to run when their own lives were at stake.

Consolidation isn't the answer. If the center in New Orleans was in as bad a shape as they were saying, they need to improve it, or open a new center in town... not close the only lifeline some have and move it across the Lake.

We need more money for this, not less. I'm sure if we cut all government salaries some and wiped out the waste that exists all over the state, we could pour some into improvements in New Orleans, and elsewhere in the state.

It won't happen, of course. More people will have less options when the critical moment arrives, and more will die. As someone mired in poverty in Louisiana and not getting any care for mental illness, I could very well be one of them one day. (Note: Not a suicide threat - T.)

And the state will be responsible for every life lost in this way.

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