my head that’s driving me crazy is louder than ever. It’s way beyond being reached by anyone or anything it seems. I can’t bear it any more. I think there’s something psychologically—twisted—reversed that has taken over, that I can’t fight any more. I wish that I could disappear without hurting anyone. I’m sorry. (Jamison, 1999:81-82)

One young journalist, only 20 years old at the time of her suicide, described in her journals the pain, abject hopelessness, and numbing exhaustion brought about by her depression. “I am,” she wrote, “growing more and more tired, more and more desperate …The fog keeps rolling in…” The night before she died she wrote, “the pain has become excruciating, constant and endless.” The next morning she drowned herself (unpublished journals of Dawn Renee Befano, quoted in Jamison, 1999:94-97).

Ten years after the family tragedy that nearly destroyed his life, Les Franklin is haunted by memories. “It’s the gray eyes,” he says, describing a vision that comes to him at night as he struggles to find sleep. They are the eyes of his late son Shaka, a 16-year-old high school football star who fatally shot himself in the family’s Denver home one day in 1990. “It’s seeing him lying on the table in the hospital with plastic gloves on his hands and a sheet up over him, a bullet hole through his head,” says Franklin, 61. “I see his mother laying her head on his chest and just sobbing, sobbing her heart out.”…

[Years later] Franklin has suffered a second tragedy…. Franklin and his second wife … found the decomposing body of his only other child, Jamon, 31, who had killed himself, possibly a week earlier by inhaling carbon monoxide fumes…. Jamon Franklin, who was living at home at the time of his death, had apparently never recovered from his brother’s suicide, which was followed just five months later by the death of the boys’ mother … from cancer….

Since [then], Franklin’s mood has swung between guilt and anger, self-doubt and despair. “I’m just trying to hang on,” he says … (Rogers and Bane, 2000:166).

THE FEDERAL RESPONSE

For decades, the federal government of the United States has been concerned about the high suicide rates. In 1966, the Center for Studies of Suicide Prevention (later the Suicide Research Unit) was established at the National Institute of Mental Health. The Centers for Disease Control



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