WBEZ | suicide http://www.wbez.org/tags/suicide Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Biographer Dissects Life of Open Internet Advocate http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2016-01-21/biographer-dissects-life-open-internet-advocate-114559 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Swartz Bio-simon and schuster.jpg" alt="" /><p><div>Computer prodigy Aaron Swartz was always dissatisfied with formal education.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He left high school at 14, and dropped out of Stanford twice. He said neither experience really fed the curiosity that drove him. That curiosity led him to be a leading advocate for opening the internet so academic institutions didn&rsquo;t hoard information and research. His advocacy was cut short when he committed suicide in 2013.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Justin Peters digs into what drove Swartz and how he pushed the open internet movement.</div></p> Thu, 21 Jan 2016 16:18:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2016-01-21/biographer-dissects-life-open-internet-advocate-114559 Texas county says Bland was despondent over not meeting bail http://www.wbez.org/news/texas-county-says-bland-was-despondent-over-not-meeting-bail-113793 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP_170273851152.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>HOUSTON &mdash; Sandra Bland, the black woman found dead in a Texas county jail this summer, killed herself because she was despondent over her relatives&#39; refusal to quickly bail her out, attorneys for Waller County argue in a federal court motion to dismiss a wrongful death lawsuit.</p><div><p>An attorney for Bland&#39;s family responded on Friday that blaming relatives for her death was &quot;completely unnecessary and inaccurate.&quot;</p><p>&quot;That&#39;s a gratuitous insult, pouring salt into the wound of an already devastated family,&quot; said Larry Rogers Jr., a lawyer for Geneva Reed-Veal, Bland&#39;s mother.</p><p>Bland, 28, from the&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;area, was pulled over July 10 by a white Texas state trooper for making an improper lane change. When the traffic stop became a confrontation, she was arrested for assault and jailed in Waller County, about 50 miles northwest of Houston.</p><p>Unable to meet the roughly $500 bond requirement, she was found dead in jail three days later.</p><p>&quot;Ultimately, Bland&#39;s decision to commit suicide was hers alone, after she denied any suicidal intentions to jail personnel, and after her friends and family refused to bail her out of jail,&quot; Larry Simmons, the attorney for the Southeast Texas county and two of its jailers, said in a court petition. The county and jailers were sued by the Bland family.</p><p>Rogers said the family didn&#39;t ignore her pleas for help. He said they were trying to figure out how to &quot;get her out of jail in a situation where it&#39;s happening over a weekend, they&#39;re not familiar with the procedures and processes, they&#39;re over a thousand miles away.&#39;</p><p>A medical examiner concluded that she used a plastic trash bag in the jail cell to hang herself. Members of her family have questioned whether she would have taken her own life. The family also says she was assaulted by a trooper during the arrest and the county failed to keep her safe and secure in jail.</p><p>The county said in its court filing this week that Bland was provided a phone to make free calls but a friend locally didn&#39;t respond and at least one of her sisters &quot;advised she would not bail Bland out of jail.&quot;</p><p>The friend has said he didn&#39;t see a voicemail message from her until it was too late.</p><p>&quot;It is apparent now that Bland&#39;s inability to secure her release from jail &mdash; and her family and friends&#39; refusal to bail her out of jail &mdash; led her to commit suicide,&quot; Simmons said.</p><p>Tom Rhodes, another attorney for Bland&#39;s mother, added that the request for dismissal of the case was &quot;premature&quot; because lawyers haven&#39;t been able to take any depositions from people involved.</p><p>Bland&#39;s arrest and death came amid heightened national scrutiny of police and their dealings with black suspects, especially those who have been killed by officers or die in police custody.</p><p>Besides the county and two jailers, other defendants in the suit are the trooper, Brian Encinia, and the Texas Department of Public Safety. The Texas Attorney General&#39;s office also has asked U.S. District Judge David Hittner to dismiss the lawsuit.</p><p>A hearing in the case before Hittner is set for next month.</p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 13 Nov 2015 16:55:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/texas-county-says-bland-was-despondent-over-not-meeting-bail-113793 In reversal, death rates rise for middle-aged whites http://www.wbez.org/news/reversal-death-rates-rise-middle-aged-whites-113616 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/crowded-street-2_custom-59a144bdb867efec0e3b18f5d42c12aa570cba42-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res454036385" previewtitle="Suicides and drug overdoses have contributed to a marked increase in the mortality rate for middle-aged whites."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="Suicides and drug overdoses have contributed to a marked increase in the mortality rate for middle-aged whites." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/11/02/crowded-street-2_custom-59a144bdb867efec0e3b18f5d42c12aa570cba42-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 412px; width: 620px;" title="Suicides and drug overdoses have contributed to a marked increase in the mortality rate for middle-aged whites. (iStockphoto)" /></div><div><div><p>A decades-long decline in the death rate of middle-aged white Americans has reversed in recent years, according to a surprising new analysis released Monday.</p></div></div></div><p>The cause of the reversal remains unclear. Researchers speculate it might be the result of the bad economy fueling a rise in suicides, plus overdoses from prescription painkillers and illegal drugs like heroin, and alcohol abuse.</p><p>&quot;That could be just a volatile mix that could set off something like this,&quot; says&nbsp;<a href="http://scholar.princeton.edu/deaton/home">Angus Deaton</a>, a professor of economics at Princeton University who conducted the research with his wife,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.princeton.edu/~accase/">Anne Case</a>, another Princeton economist.</p><p>Deaton was awarded the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-10-12/princeton-economist-wins-nobel-research-poverty-113299" target="_blank">2015 Nobel Prize in Economics</a>&nbsp;for his work on poverty.</p><p>Overall, the U.S. mortality rate has been falling by about 2 percent a year since the 1970s.</p><p>But the upsurge in suicides and drug overdoses among middle-age whites, among other trends, prompted Deaton and Case to look more closely at this group. They analyzed data from CDC and other sources, including other countries.</p><div id="con454037356" previewtitle="Death rates"><div id="res453992499"><div id="responsive-embed-mortality-20151102"><iframe align="right" frameborder="0" height="700" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" src="http://apps.npr.org/dailygraphics/graphics/mortality-20151102/child.html?initialWidth=304&amp;childId=responsive-embed-mortality-20151102&amp;parentUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.npr.org%2Fsections%2Fhealth-shots%2F2015%2F11%2F02%2F453192132%2Fin-reversal-death-rates-rise-for-middle-aged-whites%3Fft%3Dnprml%26f%3D453192132" style="box-sizing: border-box; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border-width: 0px; border-style: initial; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;" width="300"></iframe></div></div></div><p>&quot;Pretty quickly we started falling off our chairs because of what we found,&quot; says Deaton, whose findings were&nbsp;<a href="http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1518393112">published</a>&nbsp;by the<em>&nbsp;Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.</em></p><p>The mortality rate among whites ages 45 to 54 had increased by a half-percent a year from 381.5 per 100,000 in 1999 to 415.4 in 2013, the most recent year for which data are available, the researchers found.</p><p>Even so, the mortality rate for middle-aged African-Americans was higher: 581.9 per 100,000 in 2013. Hispanics fared better with a mortality rate of 269.6 per 100,000 in the same year.</p><p>&quot;There was this extraordinary turnaround&quot; among whites, Deaton says, likening the reversal to a large ship suddenly changing directions.</p><p>Based on the findings, Deaton and Case calculated that 488,500 Americans had died during that period who would have been alive if the trend hadn&#39;t reversed.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;ve been talking about this at various academic meetings and you look around the room and peoples&#39; mouths are just hanging open,&quot; Deaton says.</p><p>&quot;This is a deeply concerning trend,&quot; says Dr. Thomas Frieden, who heads the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but wasn&#39;t involved in this research. &quot;We shouldn&#39;t see death rates going up in any group in society.&quot;</p><p>The Princeton researchers analyzed data from other Western countries and didn&#39;t see the same trend.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s particularly important that they don&#39;t see it in other countries,&quot; says&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nia.nih.gov/about/staff/dbsr/haaga-john">John Haaga</a>, the acting director of behavioral and social research at the National Institute on Aging, which funded the research. &quot;So something&#39;s clearly going wrong with this age group in America.&quot;</p><p>The trend appears to be being driven by increased mortality among those with the least amount of education.</p><p>&quot;Those are the people who have really been hammered by the long-term economic malaise,&quot; Deaton says. &quot;Their wages in real terms have been going down. So they get into middle age having their expectations just not met at all.&quot;</p><p>It remains unclear why the mortality rate only increased among whites and not African-Americans or Hispanics.</p><p>Deaton and others have a theory about the difference for whites.</p><p>&quot;One possible explanation is that for whites their parents had done better economically and they had been doing pretty well. Then all of a sudden the financial floor dropped out from underneath them,&quot; says&nbsp;<a href="https://www.dartmouth.edu/~jskinner/">Jon Skinner</a>, a professor of economic and medicine at Dartmouth College who co-authored a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1519763112">commentary</a>&nbsp;accompanying the article. &quot;For African-American and Hispanic households things had never been that optimistic and so perhaps the shock wasn&#39;t quite as great.&quot;</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/11/02/453192132/in-reversal-death-rates-rise-for-middle-aged-whites?ft=nprml&amp;f=453192132" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Tue, 03 Nov 2015 12:44:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/reversal-death-rates-rise-middle-aged-whites-113616 Morning Shift: November 3, 2015 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-11-03/morning-shift-november-3-2015-113613 <p><p>When it comes to your sexual and romantic identity, how do you describe yourself? Heterosexual? Gay? Lesbian? Bisexual? What about skoliosexual, lithromantic or aromantic? There are lots more identities out there than perhaps you&rsquo;ve ever imagined. We take a look at the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-11-03/defining-sexuality-beyond-heterosexual-gay-and-bisexual-113609">meanings behind these and other identities</a>, who&rsquo;s using them and why.</p><p>We also hear about the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-11-03/obama-bans-box-113610">challenges former prisoners face</a> when they&rsquo;re looking for work. President Obama just issued an executive order eliminating requirements that federal job seekers check a box on their applications if they have a criminal record.</p><p>Plus, a television show tackles a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-11-03/suicide-black-community-113612">taboo subject</a> in the African American community.</p><p>And a listener shares <a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-11-03/my-life-three-songs-listener-nancy-moran-113607">her life story with three songs</a>.</p></p> Tue, 03 Nov 2015 11:44:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-11-03/morning-shift-november-3-2015-113613 Suicide in the Black community http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-11-03/suicide-black-community-113612 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/being mary jane BET.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><a href="http://www.bet.com/shows/being-mary-jane.html"><em>Being Mary Jane</em></a> is a television drama that airs on the BET Network. The title character is Mary Jane Paul, an African-American broadcast journalist played by Gabrielle Union. Most episodes of the show are about Mary Jane&rsquo;s career, her romantic life, or her family or friends. But last week, the show tackled a difficult subject that is particularly thorny in the African-American community: suicide.</p><p>In the episode, Mary Jane&rsquo;s friend Lisa takes her own life, and the tragedy forces Mary Jane and her other friends to reflect on how they feel about suicide, an issue shrouded in secrecy and shame. <a href="https://twitter.com/jinniecristerna">Jinnie Cristerna</a>, a psychotherapist with International High Achievers, talks about the issues the episode raises.</p><p>If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts, call 800-273-8255 or visit <a href="http://www.afsp.org/chapters">http://afsp.org/chapters</a>.</p></p> Tue, 03 Nov 2015 11:36:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-11-03/suicide-black-community-113612 What happens if you try to prevent every suicide? http://www.wbez.org/news/what-happens-if-you-try-prevent-every-suicide-113595 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Maria Fabrizio for NPR.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res453154484" previewtitle="Maria Fabrizio for NPR"><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="Maria Fabrizio for NPR" src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/10/30/npr_prevention_wide-676c542689c0117864e3b29f6560be48c17151cd-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 348px; width: 620px;" title="(Maria Fabrizio for NPR)" /></div><div><div>Each year, nearly three times as many Americans die from suicide as from homicide. More Americans kill themselves than die from breast cancer.</div></div></div><p>As&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/director/bio/index.shtml">Thomas Insel</a>, longtime head of the National Institute of Mental Health, prepared to step down from his job in October, he cited the lack of progress in reducing the number of suicides as his biggest disappointment. While the homicide rate in the U.S. has dropped 50 percent since the early 1990s, the suicide rate is higher than it was a decade ago.</p><p>&quot;That to me is unacceptable,&quot; Insel says.</p><p>It hasn&#39;t been for lack of trying. The U.S. has a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/">national suicide hotline</a>, and there are suicide prevention programs in every state. There&#39;s screening, educational programs, and midnight walks to raise awareness. Yet over the past decade or so, the national suicide rate has increased. In 2003, the suicide rate was 10.8 per 100,000 people. In 2013, it was 12.6.</p><p>An effort that began in Detroit in 2001 to treat the most common cause of suicide &mdash; depression &mdash; is offering hope. With a relentless focus on finding and treating people with depression, the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.henryford.com/">Henry Ford Health System</a>&nbsp;has cut the suicide rate among the people in its insurance plan dramatically. The story of the health system&#39;s success is a story of persistence, confidence, hope and a strict adherence to a very specific approach.</p><p>That approach saved the life of a woman who prefers to be known only by her first name, Lynn. She agreed to share her medical history on the condition that we not use her full name to protect her privacy.</p><p>Lynn, who&#39;s now in her mid-50s, has had&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder-in-adults/index.shtml">bipolar disorder</a>, also known as manic-depressive illness, for nearly 30 years. The depressive part of her illness &quot;is like the pain of having a cancer,&quot; she says. About 15 years ago, she started getting irresistible urges to take her own life and she started making serious attempts &mdash; at times almost monthly.</p><p>&quot;When I was in the depths of depression, I was being pulled and sucked into this black tunnel,&quot; she says. &quot;I was desperately trying to grab onto something to stop from being sucked in.&quot; Sometimes she couldn&#39;t find anything to hang on to. &quot;Those are the times when I finally let go and attempted suicide,&quot; she says.</p><p>The program that saved Lynn almost didn&#39;t get off the ground.</p><p>Fifteen years ago, suicide prevention care at Henry Ford, like in many places, was mostly reactive. When patients came in talking about suicide, health providers took notice. But little was done to find people before they reached that point.</p><p>Some of the health providers in the psychiatric division decided they could do better. So they applied to a foundation for a grant to provide something they called &quot;perfect depression care&quot; for the 200,000 patients in the health system. The goal: zero suicides.</p><p>The mental health division failed to win the grant, but the health system went ahead with the proposed changes anyway.</p><p>The plan it developed is intensive and thorough, an almost cookbook approach. Primary care doctors screen every patient with two questions: How often have you felt down in the past two weeks? And how often have you felt little pleasure in doing things? A high score leads to more questions about sleep disturbances, changes in appetite, thoughts of hurting oneself. All patients are questioned on every visit.</p><p>If the health providers recognize a mental health problem, patients are assigned to appropriate care &mdash; cognitive behavioral therapy, drugs, group counseling, or hospitalization if necessary. On each patient&#39;s medical record, providers have to attest to having done the screening, and they record plans for any needed care.</p><p>Therapists involve patients&#39; families, and ask them to remove guns or other means of suicide from their homes. Clerks are trained to make sure that patients who need followup care don&#39;t leave without an appointment. Patients themselves come up with &quot;safety plans.&quot;</p><p>Lynn has two copies, one by her nightstand and one in her kitchen. Each lists things she can do when she feels depression coming on. She could sit on her balcony, or do some drawing or painting. The list includes her therapists&#39; phone numbers. And there&#39;s a reminder that the feeling will pass &mdash; it has before.</p><p>Before the zero suicide plan went into effect, says psychiatrist&nbsp;<a href="http://www.henryfordmacomb.com/body.cfm?id=38441&amp;action=detail&amp;ref=3475">Doree Ann Espiritu</a>, acting head of the zero suicide program at Henry Ford, you might make a contract with a patient where the patient agrees not to commit suicide. Studies show it doesn&#39;t work very well, she says.</p><p>Today, providers are trained to be comfortable asking their patients about suicidal thoughts. &quot;There is a fear among clinicians that if you ask questions about suicide, you are giving the patient an idea that this could be an option,&quot; says Espiritu, &quot;and if you ask about guns or pills, that you are giving them some hints on how they can carry out a plan.&quot; The Henry Ford therapists are trained to break that barrier.</p><p>For Lynn, the key was persistence &mdash; her therapists&#39;, and her own. &quot;I recall one time with my psychiatrist, who kept trying to encourage me and help me find ways of coping, and I can remember saying, &#39;I don&#39;t believe there&#39;s hope, I don&#39;t see it, I don&#39;t feel it, I need you to hold on to that for me because it&#39;s not there,&#39; &quot; she recalls.</p><p>Her therapists never gave up. &quot;There is no question that the message I got from Day 1 is that they knew they could help me, and they would help me,&quot; Lynn says. Over the years she&#39;s been in group therapy, day treatment, and, when things got bad, the emergency room.</p><p>The Henry Ford approach is catching on. A stream of visitors from U.S. health insurers and from the United Kingdom have made site visits.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.sprc.org/">The Suicide Prevention Resource Center</a>&nbsp;has run two zero suicide training academies for teams from health care systems based on the Henry Ford principles. Other health systems have adapted the plan, including&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ghc.org/">Group Health Cooperative&nbsp;</a>in Seattle and the behavioral health provider<a href="https://www.centerstone.org/locations/tennessee">Centerstone</a>&nbsp;in Tennessee.</p><p>Espiritu started work at Henry Ford just as the program was starting, and she remembers the initial staff meetings: &quot;There was a lot of, &#39;How can you do this? How can you aim for zero? How can you expect your clinicians to be perfect and follow this protocol?&#39; &quot; Some people didn&#39;t think it could be done, she says, or even attempted.</p><p>Still, the health system went ahead, and the rewards were nearly immediate. Henry Ford epidemiologist&nbsp;<a href="http://www.henryford.com/body.cfm?id=38441&amp;action=detail&amp;ref=4563">Brian Ahmedani&nbsp;</a>studies the numbers. In 2009, for those being actively treated for a mental health problem or substance abuse, &quot;we had a rate of zero per hundred thousand,&quot; he says. It&#39;s crept up to 20 per 100,000 per year, but that&#39;s still 80 percent lower than it was when the program began. The rate is five per 100,000 in the organization&#39;s general population, which is well below the national average and has remained steady despite an increasing rate of suicide statewide.</p><p>There&#39;s reason to think a full-bore effort to treat depression could reduce health costs, because untreated depression is associated with higher medical bills for chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension. But there are training costs involved, and the Henry Ford system has had to keep its staffing up to be able to provide care for people who need it.</p><p>Officials at Henry Ford say they haven&#39;t analyzed the costs. But&nbsp;<a href="https://www.centerstone.org/">Centerstone</a>&nbsp;has. The behavioral health provider in Nashville implemented the Henry Ford approach for nearly 200 patients who&#39;d already made a suicide attempt. Reductions in emergency room visits and hospitalizations over the course of a year resulted in savings of more than $400,000.</p><p>Why push for zero, rather than just a reduction? &quot;Because if you say we&#39;re OK with five a year, one of those might be your brother or your friend,&quot; says Espiritu. &quot;We aim for zero because it reminds all of us of what we would want for ourselves.&quot; Maybe it is not possible, she says. But it is a goal.</p><p>And as for Lynn, she doesn&#39;t consider herself cured. She says with the treatment she&#39;s received at Henry Ford, she&#39;s learned to live, even thrive, with bipolar disease. And she&#39;s alive. That, she says, makes her a big success story.</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/11/02/452658644/what-happens-if-you-try-to-prevent-every-single-suicide?ft=nprml&amp;f=452658644" target="_blank"><em> via NPR</em></a></p></p> Mon, 02 Nov 2015 12:19:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/what-happens-if-you-try-prevent-every-suicide-113595 After the accident: Metra and pedestrian fatalities http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/after-accident-metra-and-pedestrian-fatalities-110875 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/170234239%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-Jvys6&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Frequent commuters are all too familiar with the pangs of delays: the groans induced by announcements made over a train intercom, or the confusion created when train or bus operators suggest alternative routes, thanks (or no thanks) to weather, mechanical failures, or backups.</p><p>Chicago-area Metra riders are no strangers to these feelings, but often these delays are brought on by another, more heart-dropping reason: pedestrian accidents and fatalities. It&rsquo;s not uncommon for up to 1,300 Metra riders to be held on a train for more than an hour while investigators gather at the scene to determine what happened.</p><p dir="ltr">And while many wonder why so many of these accidents happen, or how they can be stopped, a Curious Citizen (who chose to remain anonymous) had us consider this question:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>How can a thorough investigation of Metra fatalities be performed when trains are up and running 90 minutes after a fatality?</em></p><p>It&rsquo;s a bit of a loaded question, of course, as our questioner is basically asking whether a 90-minute timeframe is sufficient to gather evidence.</p><p>From the first moment we spoke with the questioner, we knew this would be sensitive topic, for sure, but experts did make themselves available to explain how pedestrian death investigations work, and they were also willing to address the &ldquo;90 minutes&rdquo; figure directly. And the question&rsquo;s important, too. The issue of pedestrian fatalities by train is regularly <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-metra-suicides-met-20140825-story.html" target="_blank">in the Chicago-area news</a>. Also, anyone involved &mdash; a victim&#39;s family,&nbsp;commuters on the train, taxpayers in Illinois &mdash; deserves to know exactly what&rsquo;s going on outside that train once tragedy strikes.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The extent of the problem</span></p><p>Pedestrian fatalities by Metra trains, or any type of train, for that matter, are not new phenomena. Train deaths, both intentional and accidental, have been an issue for rail officials across the world. <a href="http://gazebonews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/ian_savage_438_manuscript.pdf" target="_blank">But as Northwestern University researcher Ian Savage found out</a>, these incidents are happening in Illinois more than any other place in the United States.</p><p>According to Savage, one of the main reasons is Chicago&rsquo;s position as a national rail hub.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s a combination of the number of trains and the geography,&rdquo; Savage said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re fairly flat around here, and if you go out east, you&rsquo;ll find many more hills. Because trains [there] can&rsquo;t get up steep grades, you have to level this out by digging cuts, you make embankments, so you end up with a lot more natural grade separation. And here in Chicago, we have little natural grade separation.&rdquo;</p><p>Savage looked at data from the Illinois Commerce Commission from 2004 to 2012, and accounted for 338 pedestrian deaths by train within the six-county Chicago area. (Notably, Savage&rsquo;s research did not include the Chicago Transit Authority&rsquo;s elevated trains). Put another way, the area saw one pedestrian death by train every 10 days. Approximately 47 percent of the incidents were suicides.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/metra%20graphic%20mockup%203%20final_2.png" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/metra%20graphic%20new%20stats2.png" title="*Data from Chicago metropolitan region, 2004-2012. Note: Does not include CTA data. Non-motorized persons include pedestrians and bike-riders. Source: Ian Savage, Northwestern University " /></div></div><p>According to Savage, these fatalities happen for a variety of reasons. When it comes to accidents, many times people don&rsquo;t understand how dangerous trains really are.</p><p>&ldquo;In some cases, crossings are designed in a way that good people are lead into making bad decisions. And I think that perceptions of speed are very difficult,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;d never think about jaywalking across an interstate because there are cars every few seconds. But there are five, 10 [minutes], half an hour where there&rsquo;s no activity on train tracks. So you can always get led into this cognitive assumption that nothing&rsquo;s coming, when something is.&rdquo;</p><p>And while the complexity of suicide makes it difficult to understand the reasoning behind individual deaths, Savage said the frequency and high number of occurrences is likely connected to the availability of trains around Chicago. Through his research, Savage stumbled on a study from Children&rsquo;s Memorial Hospital that looked at methods of suicide. They found that the use of trains in the Chicago area was more than four times the national average.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Metra-related investigations</span></p><p>Beyond the magnitude of these fatalities, Metra faces another predicament, one that&rsquo;s different from those of state or city agencies: <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZrzuzWv2wY" target="_blank">Metra prides itself on its timeliness</a> and its ability to get commuters home on time. Its slogan is &ldquo;The way to really fly,&rdquo; and their signs read phrases such as &ldquo;We&rsquo;re on time, are you?&rdquo;</p><p>So when tragedy strikes, not only do Metra officials have to worry about the victim of the incident, but the thousands of passengers sitting on the train. In our question-asker&rsquo;s case, she read that trains were up and running 90 minutes after her friend was struck. (Metra officials say delays that day &mdash; including residual delays for other trains on that line &mdash; ranged anywhere between 30 and 110 minutes.)</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/metra%20photo%201%20LC.jpg" title="Metra signs advertise the agency's ability to arrive places on time, without delay. (WBEZ/Lauren Chooljian)" /></div></div><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a process in place, a lot of times there&rsquo;s a lot of different factors that are involved in that incident which may extend that investigation, or there may be a train strike where we hit a pedestrian, and that person ends up being fine,&rdquo; said Hilary Konczal, director of Safety at Metra. &ldquo;I mean, we&rsquo;ve hit people and we&rsquo;ve broken a leg or an arm, and we were up and moving in 20 minutes, so it depends on the situation.&rdquo;</p><p>Konczal said every investigation begins the same way: A dispatcher is immediately notified of anything that happens on Metra railroads or that involves a Metra train. That dispatcher then notifies a control center, which reaches out to the municipality where the incident occurred.</p><p>&ldquo;Normally we get the call first,&rdquo; said Des Plaines Police Chief William Kushner. &ldquo;And we&rsquo;ll get it either from people waiting for the train, or someone driving past. And they&rsquo;ll call that someone was struck by a train or someone just jumped in front of a train.&rdquo;</p><p>The local municipality usually arrives on the scene first because of their close proximity. They&rsquo;ll secure the scene, meet with the train crew, and begin to gather witness testimony. Metra also has its own police force. Its officers do their best to get to the scene ASAP, but it could take some time, as the six-county service area is about the size of Connecticut. Once both departments are on scene, one will take the lead.</p><p><iframe align="middle" frameborder="0" height="420" scrolling="no" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/metramap.html" width="620"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:11px;"><em>Metra rail lines cover six counties and more than 110 municipalities. The service area is about the size of the state of Connecticut, which means travel times for investigators and other responders can be sizable.</em></span></p><p>&ldquo;Usually, if Metra police investigate the incident, we can do it a little quicker. We have evidence technicians on scene 24 hours [per day], and a lot of times local municipality doesn&#39;t have that. They have to call them in, so that may add time to investigation,&rdquo; Konczal said.</p><p>Konczal said his staff constantly network with the over 110 municipalities that Metra travels through, so when an incident happens &ldquo;we have a rapport with them, so we can get traffic moving as soon as possible.&rdquo;</p><p>But depending on the type of accident, and how long it takes to gather all the correct people together, investigations can still take a while. Konczal said if Metra strikes a vehicle, federal regulations require that signals be tested, for example.</p><p>In a fatality situation, officials have to report information to the ICC and the Federal Railroad Administration. Almost all Metra trains have cameras on them now, as do some grade crossings, so film has to be reviewed to determine what happened, and to assess whether it was an intentional death or not. They also have to wait for a coroner to arrive, as he or she has to respectfully remove the remains.</p><p>The Metra Police Department was recently assessed by <a href="http://www.hillardheintze.com/books/metrapolicedept_01_23_14/" target="_blank">Hillard Heintze</a>, an independent council of retired police chiefs. While the group <a href="http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20140122/news/701229709/" target="_blank">found many issues with the department overall</a> (e.g., unclear mission, ineffective or nonexistent policies and procedures, staffing issues, etc.) the report did not address how Metra conducts fatality investigations.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/metra%20investigation%20full.jpg" style="float: left;" title="Metra officials investigate a commuter train accident in 2004 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)" /></p><p>Metra officials say there&rsquo;s no minimum or maximum amount of time that they try and meet for each investigation. Other police departments operate this way as well.</p><p>&ldquo;If there&rsquo;s a fatality, there are no minimums,&rdquo; said Monique Bond, spokeswoman for the Illinois State Police Department. &ldquo;The main thing is to get the victims, whether they&rsquo;re dead or hurt. That&rsquo;s the priority.&rdquo;</p><p>Bond said each investigation varies tremendously, depending on the incident: It could be hours, or it could be one hour.</p><p>But what doesn&rsquo;t change per incident, according to Metra officials and police, is the difficulty of dealing with these fatalities, both for him and his staff.</p><p>Naperville Police Chief Bob Marshall said his department, like many others around the state, provides mental health services for any officer that responds to traumatic events. Naperville recently dealt with two suicides by train.</p><p>Konczal added that Metra staff take the issue of pedestrian deaths personally. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re people. They may be your brother, my sister, your friend, it&rsquo;s just a shame,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We have employees that go out there. We have the engineer that&rsquo;s traumatized, and the family of the deceased. ... I mean, it&rsquo;s real, and it gets very personal, and at times it gets frustrating.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re constantly looking at ways to educate the public. We&rsquo;re looking at our numbers, the day of the week incidents occur - and it gets frustrating trying to identify how to reduce these risks, without trying to put up some sort of virtual fence. It&rsquo;s just very hard.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Waiting in the wings</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/steven%20vance%20bartlett%20station.jpg" title="Signage at Metra's Bartlett station on the Milwaukee District/West Line route indicates safety precautions for pedestrians crossing the tracks. (Flickr/Steven Vance)" /></p><p>Metra, as well as local law enforcement agencies, suggest that some investigations can take far less than the 90-minute figure that started our look into train-related pedestrian deaths. According to Joe Schwieterman, transportation professor at DePaul University (and Metra rider for 23 years), delays of any kind can be difficult to bear.</p><p>&ldquo;You feel the tension on board right away, people start making phone calls, and after five or ten minutes, you know, you start to wonder, &lsquo;Is this gonna be a nightmare?&rsquo; So that speculation starts,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>According to Schweiterman, everyone in the region has been startled by how a fairly small commuter rail system (in the national sense) has such a regular pattern of hitting people. And a lot of it, he said, isn&rsquo;t on Metra.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a whole series of issues, like willful deaths, and of course just a preponderance of freight trains which makes these crossings very difficult, and even just people dying on the tracks who, you know - drug use along railway tracks - there&rsquo;s a long history of a place where deviants often go.&rdquo;</p><p>But when it comes to whether these investigations are long enough or comprehensive enough, Schwieterman said anything longer than the current delays wouldn&rsquo;t be practical.</p><p>&ldquo;My view is that there&rsquo;s rarely a complex investigation needed,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;When somebody gets hit, the reason that person got hit is important from a data standpoint &mdash; and I mean, of course, for the family it&rsquo;s an absolute travesty &mdash; but from an investigation standpoint we need to know why people are getting hit and how we can fix the problems.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;But it&rsquo;s not like a crime scene, where there&rsquo;s an assailant out there who we have to find, and he may have left a clue behind.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>If you or someone you know exhibits any of the <a href="http://reportingonsuicide.org/warning-signs-of-suicide/" target="_blank">warning signs of suicide</a>, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)</strong></p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ Reporter. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda"> </a><a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian" target="_blank">@laurenchooljian</a></em></p></p> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 17:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/after-accident-metra-and-pedestrian-fatalities-110875 After suicide attempt, college student helps others deal with mental illness http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/after-suicide-attempt-college-student-helps-others-deal-mental-illness-109943 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 1.43.50 PM.png" alt="" /><p><p>Three years ago, Wesleyan college student Molly Jenkins tried to take her own life&mdash;twice.</p><p>Molly told her mom that her suicidal thoughts first began while recovering from a major surgery that left her bedridden.</p><p>After 6 months of therapy at Chicago&rsquo;s Rush Hospital, she returned to college and became a mental health advocate.</p><p><strong>Molly: &ldquo;It was really important for me to come out with this stamp on my forehead that said, &lsquo;I&rsquo;ve attempted suicide and I don&rsquo;t care what you guys think&rsquo; because I knew there were other people who, like me, were suffering in silence.&rdquo;</strong></p><p>To hear Molly and her mother discuss this trying period in their lives for the first time, check out the audio above.</p><p><em>Meredith Zielke is a WBEZ producer. </em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F6250422" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 14:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/after-suicide-attempt-college-student-helps-others-deal-mental-illness-109943 Daughter tries to come to terms with father's suicide http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/daughter-tries-come-terms-fathers-suicide-109826 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/storycorps ann tom.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>A few years ago Anne Emerson decided to visit her mom in Boston while on break from law school. One early morning during her stay they got a phone call. It was about her father &hellip; and the news wasn&rsquo;t good. What happened next gave Anne a greater perspective on illness, abandonment, and the will to live. She shared her experience with partner Tom Gallagher at the Chicago StoryCorps booth.</p><p><strong>ANNE:</strong> Everyone has something, that if they had to live without it, it wouldn&rsquo;t be life anymore.</p><p>For her father, she said, it was losing his mental faculties after developing dementia. Anne already had abandonment issues with her dad from an early age.</p><p><strong>ANNE: </strong>The only really big problem I have with his &lsquo;method of exit&rsquo; if you will, is that&hellip; just when you think someone can&rsquo;t find a new way to leave you&hellip; they do.</p><p>To find out how Anne grapples with her loss, listen to the audio above.</p><p><em>Meredith Zielke is a WBEZ producer. </em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F6250422" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 07 Mar 2014 19:21:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/daughter-tries-come-terms-fathers-suicide-109826 Without Means: The role of guns in suicide deaths http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/without-means-role-guns-suicide-deaths-106590 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Guns and Suicides_130409_sh.jpeg.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Lindsay Van Sickle&rsquo;s dad loved to shoot. He lived on a farm and hunted as a little boy. As an adult, he spent time at the shooting range. He collected what she calls &ldquo;cowboy guns&rdquo; and loved the history behind some of his WWII firearms.</p><p>Van Sickle describes her dad as the life of the party. But he also struggled emotionally.&nbsp; In July of 2011, he took one of his guns, locked the rest of them up, left his house and shot himself at a park. He was 54. The year he died, of the 30,867 gun deaths in the U.S., 19,766 were suicides.</p><p>Van Sickle says her dad was a model of responsibility with guns.</p><p>&ldquo;At the house they were locked up in the basement. I didn&rsquo;t even know where the keys were,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Even a few of my dad&rsquo;s cousin&rsquo;s who grew up kind of like my dad, were shocked that he would take something he loved so much and use it to end his life.&rdquo;</p><p>As Van Sickle watches the news, and sees all these debates about guns, she&rsquo;s found herself wondering, what role these suicides play in the debate.</p><p>&ldquo;When something like this happens, you can&rsquo;t help but wonder about the what if. If laws were different, if rules were different, if the outcome would be the same,&rdquo; said Van Sickle.</p><p>I posed that question, about laws and suicide, to Dr. Cathy Barber at the Harvard School of Public Health.</p><p>She says first, it&rsquo;s important to note why the method of suicide matters.</p><p>A number of years ago, Barber was helping develop a new system for the federal government called the National Violent Death Reporting system.</p><p>&ldquo;In the process of doing that, I would read through thousands of suicides, little thumbnail sketches of suicides,&rdquo; Barber recalled.</p><p>Barber was surprised at how many of the suicides seemed impulsive. Barber, like many others, assumed that suicide is something people plan. In another study, people who almost died in a suicide were asked how long after they decided to attempt suicide did they actually try it. Twenty-four percent said under 5 min. Two-thirds said under an hour. Only 16 percent said a day or more.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;d think this is such a huge decision, you&rsquo;d think it would be a more deliberative one,&rdquo; said Barber.</p><p>This matters because even though people may have long battles with depression, the window of time in which they actually want to attempt suicide is small. And many people who survived suicide attempts, never go on to try again.</p><p>So Barber, came to a simple conclusion. What mattered in that tiny window was the instrument available to the person wanting to commit suicide.</p><p>&ldquo;There is a huge difference across methods of suicide in how likely they are to actually kill. Firearms are actually at the top of the heap.&rdquo;</p><p><br />Suicide attempts with a gun, result in death 85 percent of the time. Poisoning, for example, only results in death 2 percent of the time.</p><p>State suicide statistics illustrate this as well.&nbsp; Eastern states, like Massachusetts have a much lower rate of suicide death than Western states like Wyoming. They don&rsquo;t vary much in depression rates or even suicide attempts.The biggest difference is the number of guns in each state.</p><p>This has gotten some public health workers thinking about a method called &ldquo;means restriction.&rdquo;</p><p>The term comes from the U.K., where gas&mdash;sticking your head in the oven&mdash;was once a leading means of suicide.</p><p>&ldquo;Back in the 1960s, they started replacing the source of gas with a non-toxic source, and suddenly suicides in Great Britain went down by a third,&rdquo; Barber said. &ldquo;And so that&rsquo;s when we started realizing means restriction actually can save lives.&rdquo;</p><p>But of course, &ldquo;means restriction&rdquo; with guns in the U.S. is not as simple.</p><p>Gun control usually focuses on homicide. Even laws like waiting periods, or background checks, haven&rsquo;t really been shown to help. That&rsquo;s because people usually don&rsquo;t go out and buy a gun for a suicide.</p><p>What matters is having a gun around. And no one is proposing laws that would get guns out of homes all together.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t see it as being in line what the courts have decided about second amendment rights,&rdquo; said Barber.&nbsp; &ldquo;I mean people can have their opinions about this, but personally, my interest is looking at this and saying &lsquo;how do we save lives right now.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>So Barber&rsquo;s approach is a public health one. Her project based at Harvard School of Public Health is called Means Matters. She encourages programs that work with, not against gun owners. For example, a New Hampshire project trains gun shop owners in suicide prevention.&nbsp; In addition to learning about how to lock up and store a gun, gun purchasers learn about how to keep guns away from suicidal individuals. They also receive resources for mental health support.</p><p>But the politicized debates over gun laws sometimes spill over to these public health approaches too. Dr.&nbsp; Joseph O&#39;Neil used to work as a family doctor. At appointments, he asked about general safety concerns.</p><p>&ldquo;When I was talking about car seats, when I was talking about seatbelt use, I often asked families if there was a firearm in the house. And I had several families take exception to that.&rdquo;</p><p>Some patients were so upset, that he would ask what they considered a personal, non-medical question, that they switched doctors.</p><p>But O&#39;Neill didn&rsquo;t stop. In fact, he expanded his efforts. He became part of the Indiana Violent Death Prevention Project. One of the organizations projects was training clergy in suicide intervention.</p><p>Over a third of clergy members, said they had actually lost someone in their congregation to suicide. The training helped them counsel potentially suicidal individuals.</p><p>&ldquo;Clergy felt more empowered to say by the way I know you feel this way. Is there a gun in the home, would you be willing to get it out of the house,&rdquo; said O&rsquo;Neill.</p><p>But they never got to see how well it worked. Their funding, from the Joyce Foundation, the same private foundation that supports this series, ran out. Other funding for firearm injury research is scarce.</p><p>The Center for Disease Control funds research on causes of death and injury. But since 1996, most of their research on firearms was restricted by congress, who was pressured by the NRA.</p><p>Another problem: The Consumer Product Safety Commision, which regulates household products like toys or cars, doesn&rsquo;t oversee firearms.</p><p>O&#39;Neil said there just isn&rsquo;t the same oversight or information on guns. &ldquo;Since 1975, we&rsquo;ve reduced the number of infants killed in motor vehicle accidents by 75%. For toddlers, 50%. I wish we could do that for firearm injuries.&rdquo;</p><p>But without the research dollars and oversight, he thinks they won&rsquo;t. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s sort of like going without a compass. We don&rsquo;t know where we&rsquo;ve been and we don&rsquo;t know where we are going unless we have the data.&rdquo;</p><p>Both Dr. O&#39;neill and Dr. Barber say that the current political battles over guns are a catch 22. It brings more attention to their issue.&nbsp; But it makes any mention of guns so contentious their work becomes political. And it&rsquo;s hard to talk to gun owners-- the very people most at risk of gun suicides-- without coming across as anti-gun.</p><p>As for Lindsay Van Sickle, the experience of actually losing someone to a firearms suicide has changed the way she feels.</p><p>&ldquo;If you have a gun, even if it&rsquo;s for hunting or protection, there may come a time in your life that you may be depressed. And that may be a means to take your life. So I am definitely more nervous and scared about guns now based on what my dad did to himself.&rdquo;</p><p>She doesn&#39;t&rsquo; know if any policies or programs could have changed what happened to her father. But she does think, at the very least, it&rsquo;s worth us asking the question.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/shannon_h" target="_blank">@shannon_h</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 10 Apr 2013 14:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/without-means-role-guns-suicide-deaths-106590