Timesizing® Assocs. - Homepage
[Commentary] © 2001 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622 Cambridge MA 02143 USA (617) 623-8080
Work-Related Suicides in 2001
12/08/2001 1 suicide story, 3 suicides, so far -
12/07/2001 1 suicide story -
- In the failed mill's shadow, the workers despair - A socialist setback in China has a grim social cost, by Erik Eckholm, NYT, A4.
BAODING, China - For more than three decades after it was founded in 1958, the Baoding No. 1 Paper Mill seemed a model of Chinese socialism.... Today, the factory is dismantled, its workers, onetime "masters of the nation," are mostly destitute and feel betrayed.... But millions of middle-aged and older workers in state enterprises...have been left feeling castoff and afraid. They include many in Baoding, an aging industrial city of a million or so about 80 miles southwest of Beijing where failed state industries and unemployment have proliferated.
In a chilling reflection of a community in despair, three elderly male retirees have committed suicide in the last three years, despondent because they became such a burden on jobless children with families of their own to support, workers said....
[One per year. Despite the hype, our current primitive brand of frozen-workweek capitalism seems, for China, as for Russia, to have merely moved it from the "second world" of controlled economies to the "third world" of impoverished economies. The alternative is fluctuating-workweek capitalism that benefit from the next generation of economic design. For more info on this Baoding case, see further excerpts on our downsizing page today, 12/08/2001 #3.]
11/19/2001 1 suicide story this weekend -
- Indiana factory shooting leaves 2 dead and 6 hurt - Suicide ends attack by disgruntled worker, by Jodi Wilgoren, NYT, A14.
GOSHEN, Ind...- Hours after arguing with a co-worker, an angry employee opened fire at a small factory here [yesterday] afternoon, killing one worker and wounding six others, one seriously, before committing suicide, the police said.
SWAT teams entered the Nu-Wood Decorative Millwork plant in a vast industrial park at about 3:30 pm to find two people dead, including the suspected killer, who was lying on top of what the police said appeared to be a shotgun, with fatal wounds to the head. Officials did not release the names of the victims or the suspected shooter, but witnesses identified the suspect as Robert Wissman, a man who had fought with co-workers earlier in the day. Records show that Mr. Wissman, 36, had a federal firearms license....
Lyle Branch...a machine operator at the plant...was on his way to punch out at about 2:30 when he heard the plant's main door open. "Then some shots rang out...."
Employees of the company, which manufactures polyurethane moldings and other home decorations, said that Mr. Wissman either had been fired or was about to be, and that he had left the factory [yesterday] morning threatening to return with a weapon.
Michelle Oswald, who had been at the plant at noon...to have lunch with her husband...the general manager, said that Mr. Oswald and two other supervisors met with a man she identified only as Robert after an incident this morning, then walked him outside and told him to calm down. ...A Nu-Wood employee...had a dispute with the suspected shooter that day. ...The co-worker said the suspect threatened him, saying: "Let's go outside. If I win, you quit; if you win, I quit."
Mrs. Oswald said that her husband called the Goshen police...and was told his only recourse was a restraining order. Management then locked all the doors to the plant except the main entrance, she said....
The shooting in this town of 29,000 people about 25 miles east of South Bend was the latest of about a dozen deadly workplace attacks in the last six years.
Mrs. Oswald said the suspected shooter was a good employee. "I never even heard him raise his voice," she said. Mr. Branch, the machine operator who...was just five feet from the gunman, called him "an O.K. guy."...
- Last December, a software tester allegedly killed seven co-workers at a Massachusetts Internet consultancy.
- In March 2000, a fired employee fatally shot five at a Dallas-area car wash.
- Other shootings involved a hotel housekeeper,
- a photocopy repairman,
- a truck driver,
- a day trader and
- a firefighter....
Nu-Wood, formerly known as GR Plastics Inc., has 35 employees and was founded in 1989. Its 40,000 square foot factory is one of 18 businesses in the 27-acre industrial park about three miles from downtown Goshen. ...An employee of NBC News...asked for a phone number to contact [the] press liason \of\ Allan Kauffman, Goshen's mayor. "This is Goshen," [Mr. Kauffman] said. "We don't have press liaisons."
[Hmm, Indiana, plastics industry, punching out at 2:30. Wonder if this was one of the plants where Ron Healey had implemented his 30-40 Plan®?]
10/01/2001 1 work-related suicide -
- Themes of gloom and doom fill Japanese bookstores, by Ken Belson, NYT, C10.
TOKYO...- There is no shortage of bad news in Japan these days - yet a...fourth recession in a decade [or just one long officially denied depression?!]..\..continued political fumbling [with] Koizumi urging reform and conservative backbenchers sticking to the status quo..\..mad cow disease, ...almost every indicator [looking bad -], debt levels, consumer anxiety and, sadly, suicide rates....
[And in accompanying graph -]
Growing despair, NYT, C10.
The suicide rate in Japan among males rose during the 1990's to a higher point than it was in the post-World War II era.
[The graph shows the -]
Number of suicides committed in Japan per 100,000 people -
[And estimating very approximately from the lines on the graph -]
Male - 1950 24, 1954 32, 1960 25, 1970 17, 1980 23, 1990 21, 2000 36.
Female - 1950 15, 1958 21, 1960 18, 1970 13, 1980 14, 1990 13, 2000 14.
Source: National Mental Health Research Center (Japan)
[Now all we need is the current population of Japan, which unfortunately is not given. However, we think most of the male suicides, anyway, are work-related. Or rather, downsizing related. Wouldn't it be great if this comparatively homogeneous population turned itself into a Timesizing lab. With an advanced form of Timesizing, Japan would beat France within a year in the up indicators and lead the world into a more intelligent economic approach that does not rely on militarization to pull out of chronic downturn.]
9/11/2001 1 work-related suicide -
- Judo great Inokuma kills self, Yomiuri Shimbun via Daily Yomiura On-line 9/30/2001 via Alberto Tabiadon.
[Why do we hear more about suicide in Japan than America? Because in Japan there is an established social tradition of honorable suicide, called in Japanese "hara kiri" or "seppuku" (this latter strangely reminiscent of "sipapu," the navel of the Earth in Hopi lore). But in America, suicide is shameful defeat for the individual and an embarrassment for the family. This interferes with Americans' acquisition of control over their own lives and deaths as championed, for example, by Dr. Jack Kevorkian and right-to-die organizations like the Hemlock Society.]
Isao Inokuma, the heavyweight gold medalist in judo at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, was found dead in his office [at] the construction company he leads in Tokyo on Saturday night, apparently after stabbing himself in the stomach. He was 63.
[Classic hara kiri.]
Inokuma, president of Tokai Construction, left a suicide note in his office, police said. The body was discovered by a company employee. According to police, Inokuma's Shinjuku-based company has been struggling financially....
Inokuma...retired from the sport in 1966 and became president of Tokai Construction in 1993. He also served as president of the Kanagawa Prefecture Judo Federation.
7/21/2001 1 work-related suicide story -
- Suspect in 5 slayings kills self in Calif. - 'Thank God that we were able to stop him.' Sheriff Lou Blanas of Sacramento County, Reuters via Boston Globe, A5.
SACRAMENTO - A disgruntled security guard who is believed to have murdered five people in a weekend rampage killed himself early yesterday after a shoot-out with police that injured two people, officials said. Joseph Ferguson...was found slumped over the wheel of a wheel of a car stolen from his final two victims - whom he had forced to make a video of his final, angry message to the world before allegedly killing one of them....
Ferguson was suspended by Burns International Security last week for allegedly vandalizing the car of his former girlfriend, another Burns employee, who had broken off their relationship. On Saturday, he allegedly made threatening phone calls to former co-workers, marking the start of what police say was a 24-hour spree that wound through some of the same neighborhoods still reeling from the Soltys case..\..
Ferguson's crime spree ended 11 days after the capture of another Sacramento-area man, Nikolay Soltys...who sparked a nationwide manhunt after allegedly stabbing six family members to death....
Late Saturday, police were alerted to gunfire at a city equipment yard, where two female Burns Security employees, including the former girlfriend, were found shot and killed inside a guard booth. Shortly afterward more shooting was reported at a nearby marina, where two other people, including one Burns guard and a man later identified as a city employee, were killed, police said.
Authorities said the victims had received multiple wounds, apparently from an automatic assault weapon.... Police said yesterday that Ferguson had compared himself to Soltys and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, and that officers had found white supremacist literature and a cache of weapons in a search of his home..\..
[Thanks again, NRA and Pres. Charlton Heston.]
In a stolen security truck, Ferguson then drove to the city zoo, where he cornered yet another Burns employee. ...Ferguson left her handcuffed to a tree and drove off in her car...to the home of a Burns supervisor [the one who suspended him?] and took the man and his wife hostage, holding them for some 12 hours. After tying up and gagging the man, Ferguson forced the woman to make a videotape in which he outlined his plan to kill police officers and vowed to commit suicide to avoid capture. "...Ultimately he shot the male hostage...," Blanas said at a news conference.... Sacramento Police Chief Arturo Venegas...added that Ferguson had vowed he was "going to go out in a bigger way than Soltys and McVeigh."
[Thank you American media, for going on and on and on about evil and... - negative reinforcement is still reinforcement. Watch tomorrow's coverage trying to stop Trade Center attack repeats by flinging the word "cowardly" - again and again and again and again.]
7/12/2001 1 work-related suicide story -
- [inside headline -]
A Detroit executive's suicide offers a grim reminder on mental illness - Over 200 million workdays are lost to depression each year, C14,
[& less informative front-of-section headline -]
Grim reminder on mental illness - Detroit executive's bouts with depression, by Micheline Maynard, NYT, C1.
DETROIT -...Heinz Prechter, chairman of ASC Inc. \who\ founded American Sunroof Corp. in Los Angeles with just $764 in equipment [in 1965], committed suicide on July 6 at age 59.
[Ulp. That's how old Phil Hyde is (externally, tho' internally he's about 9 - same as all economic designers who have to keep that open to new ideas). And Heinz Prechter probably didn't have a grandfather and father who committed suicide....]
The news was a jolt to Detroit's business community, which knew Mr. Prechter as an ebullient German immigrant who arrived in the United States with $11 in his pocket and made a fortune in the auto business.... Publicly, Mr. Prechter displayed a carefree persona as a political fundraiser and the sole owner of a privately held company - with $550m in revenues - that perfected the sunroof and helped develop specialty cars like the Dodge Viper.
\So\ even more shocking was the cause. For years, Mr. Prechter had been under treatment for severe depression.... His condition was a secret to all but his family and some close friends.... Even those who knew Mr. Prechter was ill had been buoyed during his last weeks, when his joie de vivre, absent in recent months as he battled an injury, seemed to have returned..\.. His secrecy was not surprising. "There is still this enormous embarrassment in America about having some mental health problem," said Dr. Ronald C. Kessler, professor of health care policy at the Harvard Medical School....
Mr. Prechter was certainly not alone among business and political leaders to face depression.
Mr. Prechter's death has already raised local consciousness. Calls to the University of Michigan's Depression Center, where Mr. Prechter received treatment, more than doubled in the three days after his death.
- Ted Turner was treated for manic depression in 1985 and took lithium for years.
- And George Stephanopoulos, the former aide to Pres. Bill Clinton, has openly discussed his treatment.
- The stigma may have been greater a generation ago, when Sen. Thomas Eagleton was forced to step aside as the Democratic VP candidate after acknowledging that he had undergone electroshock treatments.
- And a decade before that, Philip Graham, the chairman of the Washington Post Co., committed suicide after struggling with depression.... [His widow, Katherine Graham, died just last week.]
And his affliction was openly discussed throughout his 90-minute funeral \attended by a\ throng of 700 \including\ Energy Sec. Spencer Abraham, Commerce Sec. Donald L. Evans, ...Bush's top adviser Karl Rove, Detroit's mayor Dennis Archer, and dozens of top corporate executives....
About 12% of men and up to 25% of women suffer from depression during their lifetimes \the National Mental Health Assoc. [NMHA]\ said. While more women attempt suicide, men are more likely to be successful, doctors say..\..
Nationally, clinical depression takes a nearly $44 billion annual toll in the workplace. At any time, one in 14 employees suffers from depression, with over 200 million workdays lost each year. Symptoms range from low morale and fatigue to alcohol or drug abuse. [And] Dr. Jeffrey Lyon Speller and Dr. Tanya Korkosa, who have studied depression in corporate settings, estimate that as many as 10% of senior executives have at least some symptoms of manic depression, yet 9 out of 10 of their cases are going undiagnosed and untreated.... The prevailing attitude is "Keep a stiff upper lip, have a strong cocktail, and maybe it will go away," said Dr. Sheila Marcus, director of adult ambulatory psychiatry at the University of Michigan clinic....
[And that may be because America's top executives are "gaining the whole world but losing their own souls." After all, it is they who have turned America into a nation of workoholics, now beating out even that other nation of grunts, Japan. The "land of the free" has the greatest number of annual working hours (1,966) in the industrialized world (Japan only has 1,889, and both contrast dramatically with the two largest economies in Europe - Germany 1,574, and France 1,656 - see 7/08/2001, item 3 on our timesizing page). That means, despite the "most advanced" labor-saving technology, the United States has the shortest vacations (typically two weeks), an unenforced maximum workweek of 40 hours which hasn't been adjusted downward for over half a century (since its 44-hr level in 1938, 42 in 1939, and 40 in 1940), and the longest actual workweeks. In salaried (blank check) positions, 50-60-70 hour workweeks are common in the United States. And even in the industry that is supposedly producing the most efficient, most labor-saving technology, namely high tech, workweeks often range from 80 to 120 hours a week. Americans have no life. Compared to Europeans, Americans do not know how to live. There's a real possibility that Americans are afraid of life. Afraid to live. And afraid of real freedom. After all, the most basic kind of freedom is free time, since without that, there's no time for the exercise of any other freedoms. Clearly American CEOs have no realization that talking about "efficiency" is a complete joke unless it is reflected in our freedom from work and the proportion of our lives that we can and do devote to leisure. And is it just a coincidence that we have the second-biggest number of prison inmates in the world (over 2,000,000) next to the erstwhile "evil empire" (Russia) and that many of those inmates are now so used to incarceration that they're more comfortable "inside" than "outside" - the "prisoner loves his cage" syndrome? America the Free has become a sick joke thanks to American CEOs, whose prevailing "forthright," "no-nonsense," "solutions-oriented" attitude is "Keep a stiff upper lip, have a strong cocktail, and maybe it will go away." What a bunch of pompous clowns, who confuse being busy with being important, have never heard Thoreau's "Let your affairs be as one or two, and not as a hundred or a thousand," and are terrified of facing the emptiness of stillness. This nation and economy need more balance, and the most gradual and market-oriented program for introducing that balance is Timesizing. So, Prechter was a man who installed sunroofs and didn't take all he could of what shone through them.]
Named as co-chairman of a Republican fund-raising dinner in 1992, Mr. Prechter, who raised millions for the GOP, filled the National Building Museum in Washington to the rafters for an event that featured some powerful names. "There he sat, in his tuxedo, between Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan," Gov. Engler [of Mich.] marveled..\..
In late June...he complained about the side effects of an injury - his family would not say what kind - suffered on an Alaska fishing trip last fall.... The last employee to see him leave [the office on July 6] was a security guard, who told Mr. Prechter: "Heinz, you look tired. You've got to go home." His wife found his body, clothed in robe and shoes, the next morning in a guesthouse on his estate. He had hanged himself....
Wiping away tears, Mr. Engler called Mr. Prechter "the quintessential American, a great American dreamer"..\..
[Guess that means that suicide has become quintessentially American. And now that our CEOs have turned the American dream for most of us into hitting the lottery or suing the deep pocket, and fired us just before we could become vested so that our retirement plan, our pension, has deteriorated into dying in harness or dialling 800-KEVORKIAN, we dream of self-destruction. Here's hoping we do it simply and honestly as Jack Kevorkian adjures, and don't take any of the rest of the world with us.]
Even Mr. Prechter's company, ASC, does not offer its employees treatment programs for depression. "I can tell you that will change," said David Treadwell, Mr. Prechter's succussor as chairman.
["Yeah, you gotta problem? We'll getta program for it - throw money at it. But meanwhile, keep working 40-50-60-70 hour weeks. Work hard (never mind smart) and you'll get ahead or at least avoid the next downsizing - maybe. Labor-saving technology is not to free you up, it's just to make me richer - give me even more unspendable excess."]
During the public viewing of Mr. Prechter's body, attended by 3,000 mourners, several people told Mr. Treadwell, "I wish I could have talked to him; I could have snapped him out of this," he recalled. Robert C. Stempel, former CEO of GM, who was on a business trip when Mr. Prechter died, said he did not believe a news report and called home to see if it was true.... Mr. Prechter had an undeniable zeal for life..\.. "How could I misread this guy?" he said....
[Maybe because you're both such consummate actors. Both so astronomically overloaded with unspendably excessive income and wealth. Both so completely insulated from the vast majority of your fellow Americans and fellow human beings. And with such a need to see the status quo you so carefully preserve as "the best of all possible worlds," you make sure that none of the negative consequences of all the important decisions that you carefully pull to yourselves ever touch you. This is not a feedback system. And any arrangement without feedback cannot continue indefinitely. It becomes, without realizing it, self-destructive, just like Heinz Prechter, despite his "undeniable zeal for life."]
6/24/2001 1 work-related suicide story this weekend -
- Add betrayal and death to Camden political saga, by Andrew Jacobs, NYT, A25.
CAMDEN, NJ - ...Anthony Scarduzio [was] a tireless foot soldier for the Camden County Democrats and chief of the city's Parking Authority. [He had] a 25-year climb from his first job as a meter maintenance man. So when Mr. Scarduzio found out last year that his old pal and employee, Joseph Bowen, was publicly accusing him of corruption... he badmouthed Mr. Bowen to anyone who would listen, told local reporters that his former friend was a liar, and, according to authorities, even offered another man $10,000 to take Mr. Bowen's life.
But on Monday morning, as state prosecutors prepared to file criminal corruption charges against Mr. Scarduzio, it now appears that he decided to take matters into his own hands. Investigators say they believe that Mr. Scarduzio shot and beat Mr. Bowen as he did landscaping work at a roadside ice cream parlor in suburban Washington Township, leaving him severely injured with four gunshot wounds. Minutes later, the police found Mr. Scarduzio sprawled on the floor of a friend's home less than a mile away, a shotgun by his side, his face obliterated by a single blast to the head. Although law enforcement officials have not ruled his death a suicide, the authorities say they believe that Mr. Scarduzio killed himself after attacking Mr. Bowen, who remains in critical but stable condition at a Camden hospital....
The shootings were a violent twist in a long string of depressing events that have clouded City Hall in Camden, New Jersey's poorest city....
6/17/2001 1 work-related suicide story -
- Officers used as a means to a violent end - 'Suicide by police' cited in Kentucky, by Jim Warren, BG, A13.
...The term...describes a situation in which people who want to end their lives deliberately provoke police into shooting them. It was not widely recognized until a few years ago.... No one knows just how often [it] occurs; a case is only definitive when a note or other record is left.
Many police agencies now train officers for such situations. Still, authorities say there is little officers can do, especially if perpetrators are willing to kill others as a way to get police to kill them....
At least five cases this month in which Kentucky police officers faced individuals who seemingly invited or even forced officers to kill them are raising new concerns about [the] phenomenon.... Two of the encounters ended peacefully, and another produced injuries that weren't life-threatening. But two ended in deaths.... [The five cases in a] three-day period focused new attention of the issue:
[Wasn't that also a three-day period when people were driving their cars real stupidly? Colleague Kate announces these periods with the announcement, "The Earth is spinning through a low entropy zone."]
- ...On June 2, Louisville police subdued a man who stabbed himself in the chest with a steak knife and then shouted for officers to kill him. Four officers were injured in the scuffle..\..
- One day [later], Gary Sexton...was shot and killed by a...trooper in Letcher County after he refused to surrender and advanced toward officers with a hunting knife. Witnesses said Sexton urged police to fire, although his brother denies that he wanted to die.
- Also on June 3, officers rushed to a motel in Florence where a man, distraught over marital problems, threatened to exchange gunfire with officers.... He surrendered after talking with a police negotiator..\..
- On June 4, William Wood, a distraught veteran threatening suicide, barricaded himself in a room at Lexington's University Inn. He surrendered...after more than 12 hours. Lexington Police Chief Larry Walsh says the case was attempted suicide by police.
- Also on June 4, Luke Thorpe...was fatally shot by a state trooper in Lee County after firing a shotgun at officers. Thorpe reportedly had told friends that he expected to die.
In addition, Lexington police have described a shooting in January at Fayette Mall as suicide by police. An off-duty detective fatally shot James Robert Miller after Miller pointed a gun at him.
[But if the officer was a detective - no uniform? - and off-duty - no uniform! - how could this be suicide by police? Part of the syndrome here, unmentioned in the article, has to be the authority-figure police uniforms. As Hamlet might have said, "The costume's the thing...."]
One of the most extensive studies of suicide by police was performed by Dr. H. Range Hutson, a Harvard Medical School researcher. Hutson reviewed more than 400 police shootings from 1987 to 1997 in Los Angeles, and concluded that one in six were suicides by police.... Hutson said police frequently are blamed when such cases do end fatally. "People will say, "They didn't have to kill him. Why didn't they shoot him in the leg?'" he said. "But police today are not trained to wound people; they are trained to shoot to kill. Someone who is only wounded can still grab a gun and kill an officer or an innocent bystander."
..\..Most cases involve men...Hutson found. [But] he said, one woman was killed while aiming an unloaded gun at an officer. She left behind a note apologizing for having forced police to kill her. ...Hutson said, "...We [also] don't know how many people set out to do it but change their minds and give up...."
..\..Clifton Van Zandt, a consultant and former FBI special agent who was involved in a suicide-by-police episode 20 years ago...has developed a psychological profile of people who are likely to attempt suicide by police. It describes individuals of generally low socioeconomic status, who probably have a history of aggression or mental problems, might see themselves as victims, and think they could somehow punish others by dying themselves....
[Or maybe they just want to get the feeling they're dying as warriors - in battle. But wouldn't it be easier if we just set up theme parks for this?]
"I can't tell you how many police officers and FBI agents I have sat with while they cried and kept asking, 'Why did he make me shoot him?'" Van Zandt said. "To me, these men and women are the real victims because they have to live with the knowledge that they were used in this horrible way to end someone's life."...
[The future will go beyond "suicide parlors" as in the film Soylent Green and provide a variety of theme parks to prevent this kind of suicide by unwilling accomplice - which is probably much more general than just suicide by police.]
5/24/2001 1 work-related suicide -
- Silicon Valley woes spawn a new breed of homeless - Layoffs lead ex-tech workers to area shelters, by Karen Davis, AP via BG, D6.
...Suicide and crisis hot line operators in San Francisco and Santa Clara counties report that job-related calls nearly doubled from October to April; many callers complained of lost jobs or feared they would soon be out of work.
Studies have shown that 12 to 18 months after downturns in the economy, suicide rates rise, said Eve Meyer, director of the San Francisco Suicide Prevention Crisis Line. "They lose their car, and they can stand it," said Meyer. "Then they lose their house, and that's bad. Then they may lose their family. That's when you get into substance abuse. A year may have gone by the time they call us."...
5/03/2001 Suicide prevention campaign is unveiled, Reuters via NYT, A18.
- A brave singer who finally ran out of silver linings, by Robin Pogrebin, NYT, B1.
...Susannah McCorkle...55, a fixture in the rarefied world of cabaret with 17 albums and a loyal following at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel [in NYC], jumped from her 16th-floor apartment on West 86th Street in Manhattan early Saturday morning, leaving a suicide note.... In elegant evening gowns and a pixie haircut, she [had] held the Room with her smoky voice, delivering songs unadorned....
[She looks great in the accompanying photos.]
A writer herself, she approached the songs as literature, researching their origins, plumbing them for meaning, unearthing new verses and relaying her discoveries to her audiences. "She would come up with things no one knew," said Arthur Pomposello, the manager of the Oak Room. "It was intelligent patter."
..\..[But] she had a history of clinical depression, her mother and her friends said. In the last few weeks her career had...been dealt a double blow.
"These were two of her professional anchors," said Thea Lurie, Ms. McCorkle's closest friend for 30 years. "The news hit her hard. But this was an extraordinarily resilient, resourceful and positive person."...
- She learned that her record company, Concord Jazz, would not be putting out a new CD of hers this year, only a compilation of her past work.
- She also learned that the Algonquin, where she had performed for the last 11 years, would not be renewing her annual engagement this fall.
[Doesn't seem like a firing for just cause. Seems more like a petulant, bored-manager layoff.]
[The more the lesson for the rest of us.]
Her father suffered from bipolar depression and in 1994 chose to put a plastic bag over his head rather than battle cancer, said her mother, Margery [living] in...Calif. [Susannah] herself survived breast cancer..\..
Margery McCorkle said, "I don't blame her. I think she saw that she couldn't stand what was coming up..\..
I think we all...should get to die if we want to."
[Now there's an understanding mother for you. Phil Hyde agrees, despite having his thirteenth birthday bracketed by the suicides of his grandfather and father. Freedom is always and at least two-way. If we aren't free for a self-determined death, we aren't free for a self-determined life. That means we aren't free at all.]
WASHINGTON...- The surgeon general, Dr. David Satcher, started a national campaign today to combat suicide, the 8th-leading cause of death among Americans.... More than 30,000 Americans take their lives annually, amounting to more than three suicides for every two murders, and more than 650,000 Americans attempt suicide annually....
The plan recommends suicide prevention programs based in the community that build life skills and community support - factors known to reduce the risk of suicide. Dr. Satcher said he would seek to improve suicide prevention education and training for health care professionals, members of the clergy, teachers and others to help them better recognize those at risk....
[As the Age of Ecology matures, our population impact on the environment builds and our emphasis shifts from quantity to quality of human life, we will gradually stop our insecure campaigns to pressure people to stay alive, and simply facilitate well-considered decisions. You either love life or you don't. You either love your life or you don't. Love it or leave it, but quit poking your wrists and sitting on the fence.]
5/01/2001 1 more work-prep related suicide story (i.e., education-related) -
2/06/2001 1 work-preparation related suicide story (i.e., education-related) -
- Inside the teenage mind - Suicidal thoughts are a fact of life for many high school students, by Patrick Healy, Boston Globe, C1.
LAWRENCE, Mass. - ...Lawrence High officials recently discovered a health crisis in their midst - students are trying to kill themselves at a rate almost twice the state average, according to a survey of about 90% [1,513 students] of the school . ...15.4% attempted suicide in the last 12 months...at least once. The Massachusetts high school average was 8.3%. Among female seniors at Lawrence High, 19.2% reported a suicide attempt. [Nearly] one in five.... At least two students have made suicide attempts this year that required medical attention.... They are cutting themselves and swallowing handfuls of pills.\..
The predominantly poor Latino students may see suicide as an escape from stress..\.. "I have a lot of pressure, like I've got to set an example for my daughter. But it's tough in Lawence - you get [drugs], alcoholics, gang murders, AIDS. People are in trouble," [said] Levi, Lawrence High School sophomore [for the fourth year] who once [age 9] attempted suicide. ...But being a drug dealer would just prove Levi's father right - the father who calls his son a dope, a loser, a failure next to Levi's brother, who is so good at sports and school....
Suicide...is often seen as a problem for affluent communities where young people are under more pressure to succeed. But educators in Lawrence say they are finding that cultural factors can pack the same punch as academic pressure in other school systems....
...The suicide attempts and pregnancy rates were significantly higher than state averages..\.. The student-health chief, Karen White...said that many Hispanic parents are very strict and punishing, partly because they are struggling financially in this hard-pressed city. \In\ another...low-income, minority-dominated school system, Boston, [only] 8% of students reported attempting suicide - about half that of Lawrence. Nationwide, suicide is the third leading cause of death among high-school-age students, behind accidents and murders. Yet, in Massachusetts, there were 503 suicides in 1998, compared to just 123 homicides, the Dept. of Public Health recently noted....
- One in 12 Lawrence High students reported being pregnant or having conceived a child - one in seven of them by senior year.
- One in 11 have been sexually abused.
- One in three began drinking alcohol before [age] 13.
- One in 6 had skipped school because they felt unsafe there.
[Phil Hyde's grandfather and father set him up by bracketing his 13th birthday with their suicides. That's what forced him, an otherwise happy-go-lucky gemini dilettante, to find out what the hey is going on in this crazy world at a much deeper level than anybody had told him, and turn himself into an 'idea commando,' identifying and solving the biggest human problem of his lifetime (problem: "why aren't we all living in heaven with all this wonderful technology?!" - solution: "link our technology levels, as expressed in under-employment, to our workweek levels, so that as one rises, the other falls"). Phil also thinks modern science has failed to tell kids how they're plugged into nature. Economists talk as if nature doesn't exist, and biologists have been pedantic, unimaginative and unassertive about their presentation of the wonderfulness of evolution. Even many ecologists have become bogged down too nitpicky too soon instead of following their calling to present the awesome big picture. Phil is working on a couple of big-picture books this year for young people. He's hoping they'll back up timesizing and get us moving forward with much deeper and faster progress. (Phil didn't go to Lawrence High in Massachusetts. He went to Lawrence Park High in Toronto. Toronto high schools actually had - have? - the quaint name of "collegiate institutes" instead of "high schools." Thus Phil's high school was actually called Lawrence Park Collegiate Institute, LPCI, or "Logical Place for Collection of Idiots" as we used to call it.)]
2/06/2001 1 work-related murder-suicide -
- [the latest "cool move" in Massachusetts highschools?]
Data on suicides set off alarm - Attempts by teens on rise, study says, by Patrick Healy, Boston Globe, B1.
Warning of an emerging public-health crisis, Massachusetts educators said yesterday that suicidal behavior and emotional problems are on the rise in high schools, reflected in a new state finding that about 10% of these students made some kind of suicide attempt in the past year.
[So is this -
Officials at Lawrence High School, for example, are reeling from a new in-house report that about 230 students [15.4%] - out of about 1,500 surveyed - said they had tried to kill themselves last year. "We're absolutely floored by our results," said Peg Burton, health and nursing services coordinator for Lawrence schools. "We had no idea. We knew that kids tend to think about and talk about suicide a lot, but this stunned us."...She noted that...Lawrence students' reported drug and alcohol use is below the state average..\..but she also noted that..\..the school's MCAS scores included some of the state's lowest \and that\ many Lawrence students are poor..\..
- a function of the kids looking ahead at 50-60 hour workweeks on somebody else's trip, or maybe just some disguised form of makework, in this "advanced economy," and thinking, "Is that all there is?" or if they know some history, "Been there, done that!"? - or
- the first fruits of the most neglected generation of kids in recent American history - with both parents working, and/or divorced, or maybe just a megahour-working single-parent situation where the kid is basically just an accessory for the Busy Important Life of a supermom or dad? - or
- an attempt to get some attention from workoholic parent(s)? - or
- maybe just the latest "cool move" marketed by the latest groovy violence-radiating rock group?]
Several guidance counselors said yesterday that the state Dept. of Public Health [(DPH) report] accurately reflects problems in their schools that, until now, have not been widely known. "Ten percent is what we've seen on attempts," said Linda Shapiro, who chairs the counseling department at Newton North High School [in wealthy Newton. In] the DPH study...about 10% of the students said they had tried to kill themselves at least once, and 4% said they had made an attempt that required treatment from a doctor or nurse.
...Guidance counselors...interviewed yesterday concurred that the data reflect a world of pressure, isolation, and despair that some students live in..\..
Some guidance counselors said...the 10% statewide finding on suicide attempts is..\..higher than in their schools.... Jim Montague...of...Boston Latin School said yesterday...the 10% statewide finding...is far higher than the numbers of severely troubled students he has seen since he started there last fall.
[But Boston Latin has a very select group of students, does it not?]
Tricia Caron, Springfield Central High School's chief social worker, said she knows of about [only] 10 students out of 1,800 who attempted suicide in the past year.... "I have a lot of kids who are suicidal but they don't follow through," Caron said. "You don't know how many poems I get about suicide, journal entries about suicide."... Newton North's Shapiro said that so-called suicidal gestures are especially common: Cutting oneself, for example, or taking six aspirin instead of two. "They are students expressing their feelings of being trapped, overwhelmed, very unhappy," Shapiro said....
According to the DPH study, even more students considered suicide that attempted it. About 24% had thought about it and 19% had made a plan....
Suicides statewide far outnumber homicides, 503 to 123 in 1998, according to the DPH study, the first intensive look at suicide in Massachusetts....
1/16/2001 2 work-related murder-suicide stories -
- Ex-worker opens fire at Illinois plant; 5 are killed - A gunman at Navistar 'went up one lane and down another' shooting, by Pam Belluck, NYT, A12.
MELROSE PARK, Ill... - A man forced his way into a Navistar engine factory in this western Chicago suburb [yesterday] morning and opened fire, killing four people and wounding four others, before taking his own life.... Armed with an AK-47 rifle, a shotgun, a hunting rifle and..\..a .38-caliber snub-nosed revolver [he] forced the security guard to let him in the building..\..
The police identified the man as Willie Dan Baker, a...forklift operator who had worked at Navistar for 40 years before being fired in 1995 for stealing engine parts. Last month, Mr. Baker was convicted in federal court of conspiracy to commit interstate theft in connection with the stolen Navistar parts. He was scheduled to begin his 5-month prison sentence on Tuesday. His sentence also required him to pay a $195,000 fine....
1/10/2001 1 work-related murder-suicide stories -
- Stopping workplace violence, opinion by Michael Rosen of Foley Hoag & Eliot, Boston Globe, D4.
...Homicide is the second leading cause of fatal occupational injury in the United States. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, an average of 20 workers a week are murdered and 18,000 assaulted....
[Michael has a string of bandaid suggestions to address the symptomatic level of this problem. We have a fundamental cure. Begin with the realization that we have soooo much worksaving technology, there is no reason we should not ALL be living in heaven today - defined as working less and less for more and more money - if we applied the anything like the same level of design effort to our economic technology as we do to our computer technology. We're getting workplace violence because we've designed our economic technology to do the opposite - to make us gradually work more and more hours for less and less money. The clue to the solution? The problem always goes away in wartime. War removes working hours from the job market by removing people from the job market and sending them overseas. It acts like a giant Mexico exporting all its surplus workers to the United States. But there's a smarter and easier and less wasteful alternative - simply withdraw working hours from the job market by cutting the workweek and reducing everyone's share of market-demanded employment. It acts the same way. Spoiled employers squeal and whine same as they did during World Wars I and II as labor dried up and wages rose, but their vast hoards of wealth get spread around and general markets rise in compensation. We call it Timesizing.]
- Patient suicide brings therapists lasting pain, by Erica Goode, NYT, D1.
[Maybe that's because they're starting from the wrong assumptions - the assumptions that they know best what's good for everybody all the time, and that suicide is always wrong, always a bad idea. But if we're not in control of our death, are we really in control of our life? The best developments in the 20th century gave people more control, regardless of those who said they couldn't handle it. The motorcar, the home telephone, the personal computer,... Maybe it's time we stopped patronizing the desperate. Maybe if we let those who want to die, die, we'll be left with a population more strongly commited to life and to progress for everyone, not just for the small group of astronomically wealthy at the top who "know better than we do what's good for us." Many sages have said some version of "Live each day as if it were your last, but plan as if you had forever." Some, like Castaneda's don Juan Mateus, have counselled taking death as our advisor - our own death. "Cuts the crap out of your life," said don Juan. (See Chapter 4 "Death Is an advisor" in Carlos Castaneda's Journey to Ixtlan - The Lessons of Don Juan, 1972.) Maybe societies are like individual lives. Maybe many are committing suicide slowly and dishonestly, and taking others with them. Maybe our society will be more mature and responsible when it accepts that in some circumstances, people would lessen the damage to others' lives by doing it quick and clean. Are there dangers and risks on this path? Sure, there always are when we grow up a bit and take a bit more responsibility. But freedom has to be at least two-way, and the maximum freedom is present when the two ways are 180°-opposites - freedom from and freedom for. And if we aren't really free for a gentle, dignified, under-our-control death, maybe we aren't really free for a gentle, dignified, under-our-control life.]
1/02/2001 2 suicide stories -
- [apparently small businesses are not immune -]
5 dead in shootings at Houston businesses, AP via NYT, A16.
A convenience store owner who had apparently been feuding with a wholesaler shot [him, his wife and daughter] to death at the [wholesale store yester]day and then killed himself.... \He\ had accused [the wholesaler] of trying to destroy his business. \His own\ wife was later found dead inside a cooler [back] at the convenience store. [He himself] died later at a hospital of a gunshot wound to the head....
[This is one of the worst written reports we've ever seen, and only the victims and their business are ever named (wholesalers Chung, Hyun and daughter Kathy Chang of Amko Trading), never the murderer-suicide or his business. Instead, he is repeatedly referred to as "the gunman" like a character out of a western movie. If our media keep glorifying them and protecting them, we'll keep getting more.]
- West battles to stem high suicide rates - 'We usually see a spike after the holidays. People tend to hold on for the holidays.' Bev Thurber, Larimer County Suicide Prevention Center, Colo., by Chryss Cada, NYT, front page.
...The suicide rate of 17.2 per 100,000 people [across] the states of New Mexico [17.1], Arizona [17.2], Colorado [15.4], Utah [16.0], Nevada [22.7 - and compare Alaska at 21.0], Idaho [16.4], Wyoming [18.1], and Montana [17.9] is nearly double the 9.6 rate in New England [despite Maine, 10th highest at 15.8 (Mass. is 47th at 8.2 and the one we're missing here so far of the top twelve states is Oregon, 9th at 16.0)]. And it puts the Mountain States on par with Russia, China, and Kazakhstan, which have the world's highest suicide rates..\.. For almost a century, the suicide rate in the Mountain States has been the highest in the country, as the region's isolation and a tradition of rugged individualism make a lethal combination....
The period after the holidays is a particularly deadly time.... But factors leading to suicide are present year-round, nowhere more so than in the West, where health specialists say the problem has reached "epidemic" levels. ..."Suicide is what happens when people think they are out of options. And in the West, there are fewer options"..\..said Dr. John Fildes of the Las Vegas-based Suicide Prevention Center, which is funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control....
[You mean we taxpayers fund suicide prevention and we don't fund gun licensing?!? Isn't this like ordering warnings on cigarettes and subsidizing tobacco farming? But they don't mention guns or cigarettes in this article. Here are the factors, besides post-holiday let-down, that they mention -]
- ...People who commit suicide [often] suffer from...major depression.... But in the West, there is less access to mental health professionals and other support.
- ...[Plus] "There is definitely a rugged individualism out West," said [Stephanie] Finley, who organized the Colorado Office of Suicide Prevention last summer. "We still have that pioneer mentality, that we can do it ourselves.
- "Add to that the stigma associated with mental health, and you have people deciding not to go in for help." To try to destigmatize suicide, Finley's office is operated under the state's public health, rather than mental health, department....
- "If you live in a rural area and seek out help for mental illness, you are more likely to be 'found out,' and once you are found out it is more likely that your entire social network will know," said Robert Beeson, president fo the Rural Mental Health Assoc., a national organization for mental health professionals....
- The American Assoc. of Suicidology...has also made this connection. In a recent study, the states with the highest suicide rates also had the lowest number of mental health professionals per capita.
- Another factor may be the lack of people in general. [Six of] the Mountain States [are] among the country's 20 least-populated....
- Isolation can be especially difficult for teenagers, for whom suicide is the 3rd-leading cause of death nationwide (compared with the 8th-leading cause for adults)....
- "In high-immigration areas like the West, people are at more of a risk," said Finley. "When they move, they leave behind their safety net...."
- Suicide rates are up to four times higher in cities with legalized gambling, according to a 1997 study by David Phillips, a professor of sociology at UCal-San Diego. The rate of visitors who kill themselves in Nevada is also four times the national rate. \Hence\ in Nevada, which leads the nation's suicide rate, one unique factor may be gambling....
[Hey now, there's a potentially lucrative sideline for Vegas. Remember the plush suicide parlors in the 60s movie "Soylent Green"?]
- [Much of graduate education falls into the realm more of makework-related rather than work-related, but here's an indication that the stress in the real workaday world leaks over into the ivory tower -]
Grad student suicides spur big changes at Harvard chem labs, by Bella English, Boston Globe, D1.
In August 1998...Paul Nghiem, a physician doing a post-doctoral fellowship in the [Harvard] chemistry department \sent an email to\ Dr. Ned Hallowell...a Boston-area psychiatrist who had just written a book about worry.... \It began,\ "Harvard needs you.... We have just on Friday suffered the loss of a young and talented graduate student, to suicide." There had been others, the memo continued: half a dozen in the past several years. "Clearly, this is a tragic and appalling concentration within a single department."... Since then..\..the head of the department, Jim Anderson, ...Hallowell, and Nghiem have met monthly to talk about [it]. The result is a department that has been transformed in both tangible and intangible ways.
"There is a natural tendency to pathologize the victim of the suicide, rather than consider what might be amiss within the system where it took place," Hallowell says.
- The cold, barren lobby has given way to a warm warren of offices.
- The adviser system has been changed to better accommodate students.
- Catered buffet dinners now attract faculty and students.
- Free psychological counseling is promoted.
- And soon, when the department opens its first student center, students will have a place to relax.
[Ain't that the truth about unemployment, poverty, and crime as well.]
"Thank God the system responded the way it did."
[And if we're lucky, or smart, some of us will live to see the economic system responding by implementing timesizing instead of downsizing.]
Harvard's Mallinckrodt Laboratory, an imposing building on Oxford Street, produces some of the world's top chemists..\.. This prestigious department...has four Nobel laureates on its faculty and selects an elite of 35 students a year from around the world....
[Some of big-name Harvard's graduate departments get taken over by small people with a lot of anger and perfectionism, and they proceed to "raise the bar" in that department to almost impossible levels. Harvard Linguistics in the 1960s got into this position and turned into an emotional slough, eclipsed as it was by MIT Linguistics with its world-renown Chomsky. They turned over control of the PhD comprehensive exam in descriptive linguistics to a graduate student who pushed people to take it as fast as possible and then flunked them repeatedly. It's a wonder there was just a string of dropouts there (including Phil Hyde, who transferred to Union Graduate School, and Brian Sinclair, the famed Ol' Sinc of Sat. morning's great "Hillbilly at Harvard" country music radio show on FM 95.3 - Brian got jobs in Harvard administration - campus police, HR...) instead of a string of suicides (but then, maybe there were suicides that were hushed up). The pressures of that first year in Harvard graduate linguistics were unbelievable, as the horrible truth gradually came out about the almost non-existent PhDs produced by the department in the previous 10 years. Spring of '69 shall forever be known as "Black Spring," capped by the death of Phil's wonderful English granny, Granny Hyde, in Toronto in June or July, and of course it didn't help that Phil had split up with his wife of 4 years, an overall 7-year relationship, in the fall of '68. The song that fall was Judy Collins singing Joni Mitchell's "I've looked at life from both sides now...."]
For earlier suicide stories, click on the desired date -2000 & previous.
For more details, see our laypersons' guide Timesizing, Not Downsizing, which is available online from *Amazon.com and at bookstores in Harvard and Porter Squares, Cambridge, Mass.
Questions, comments, feedback? Phone 617-623-8080 (Boston) or email us.