After a long and hard winter, it was finally a warm spring day.
While most people were thinking about the nicer weather and weekend ahead, we were focused that afternoon on a call blaring over the newsroom scanner about gunfire in a usually quiet section of Luzerne County. (We don’t want to say exactly where because we don’t want to give away the identities of those involved.)
We sent someone to check out the call.
And after navigating some rural back roads, our man arrived at the scene and discovered a horrible sight — a body in a driveway covered by a blanket.
As he waited for police to release details, family members arrived at their home and learned the grim fate of their loved one.
Police later confirmed a young person had taken their own life that day for some unknown reason.
You didn’t see that story in our pages because suicides, unless done in very public fashion, typically are items newspapers stay away from.
But for our employee dispatched to that address that day, there does not need to be any archived article to recall what he observed.
The pain and anguish and despair etched on the faces of the parents of the suicide victim are something he will never forget, especially as a parent himself.
Unfortunately, this is far from an uncommon occurrence. In Luzerne County alone, 64 suicides were investigated by the coroner’s office in 2017, and that number ranged from 50 to 67 annually from 2010 through 2015, according to a previous Times Leader report.
And on average, one person dies by suicide every four hours in Pennsylvania, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
But one person’s experience at a death scene and statistics are hard to relate to.
Celebrities, meanwhile, are much more relatable to the average person, it seems. We base that on the typical outpouring you see on social media and elsewhere after a big name takes his or her own life. (Chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain is just the latest example.)
And just a few days ago, the problem came clearly into focus again with the induction of Philadelphia Eagles great Brian Dawkins into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Dawkins, in what was news to even his biggest fans, routinely thought about killing himself during the early part of his career.
“I suffer from depression,” he said during his induction speech. “I went through it mightily in my rookie year. I suffered through suicidal thoughts. And I wasn’t just suffering through suicidal thoughts, I was actually planning the way that I would kill myself, so my wife would get the money.”
So, a man admired for his toughness, his strength, his speed and other physical attributes was mentally vulnerable. It’s not something that would naturally occur to most people, but it was very true in the case of Dawkins.
And it just goes to show how being tough or strong physically in no way protects even the toughest guy or gal from the ravages of mental health issues.
Dawkins, a supreme tough guy on the field, showed a different kind of toughness. He talked to someone. He got help. He overcame. And now he’s trying to educate others to let them know asking for help is certainly no sign of weakness and there’s no shame in doing so.
It’s probably the most powerful thing he’s done, and it has nothing to do with football.
If you or someone you know is struggling, get help. The great thing is there is a lot of it out there.
A great start would be the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It’s available 24 hours every day. The number: 1-800-273-8255.
Remember, there’s always another way.
— Times Leader