On Friday, July 10, 2015, a 28 year old woman was pulled over in Prarie View, Texas for failing to signal properly. According to witnesses and news reports, she was asked to extinguish a cigarette but refused. Words were exchanged, and the situation escalated. She was then taken to the ground and arrested for assault on a public servant. She was taken to the Waller county jail where she was working on posting her $500 bond. According to friends, she seemed to be in good spirits. However, at 9:00 AM Monday, July 13, the same young woman was found in her cell not breathing and unresponsive. Jail staff performed CPR, but it was too late, and she was pronounced dead. The cause given was self inflicted asphyxiation. According to a statement, a garbage bag was used by the woman and an autopsy by the Harris County Medical Examiner confirmed the cause of death. The woman's family is outraged saying that her death is suspicious. They claim that there is no way this woman would have committed. The Waller County District Attorney has begun an investigation and asked both the Texas Rangers and the FBI to investigate. If the facts com out that there was foul play, then all parties involved should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, but that is not why I am writing about this.
Over the course of the past week, this story has received a great deal of traction in the Houston area news, as well as national news and of course it has taken center stage on social media as well. There are racial undertones to the story, but that is not my focus here. Instead, I want to examine the reaction of the public to suicide, and how their actions showed how far we, as a society, must go in order to understand mental illness and the motivations of a person to complete suicide.
In March, this young woman posted a Youtube video saying that she had been dealing with some depression and PTSD. I empathized with her. I have dealt with the same thing after Peyton's suicide. However, the reaction of people from her friends to people on social media showed how little others understand. I have heard and read everything from "That was in March, she would have been better by now, " to "Depression goes away, so it couldn't have been that" to "She probably had a bad day and thought she was depressed." My reactions to these statements ranged anywhere from bewilderment to wanting to climb into the TV, grab the person by the collar, slap them around while yelling, "You are part of the problem!!!! Shut up and educate yourself. " This is what is wrong when it comes to mental health, a total and complete misunderstanding, as well as a plethora of misinformation surrounding it.
Depression is not something you get over, nor does it go away like the common cold, and who knows better if they are depressed than the depressed person. As an adult, I knew that my depression was more than just a bad day, and I am sure this woman did as well. Depression is an illness, much the same as cancer, and like many illnesses, it doesn't just "go away". and just like you would never tell a cancer patient to get over it, or that it is all in their head, the same goes for some one suffering from depression.
The other aspect was the subject of her suicide, and the lack of understanding by the public. Once aging, I cringed in horror at the statements people made. Apparently the woman had moved from Chicago to Prairie View to begin a new job and start her life again, so people said there was no way she would have killed herself because she had a new job, or because she was a spiritual person, because she always seemed positive, the list is endless. In the end, there is no telling what the trigger was, if in fact she did kill herself. I can speculate, but I don't know. I am sure that spending three days in any jail is not good for the psyche of any person. Being charged with a felony can endanger a job, the looming court battles ahead, who knows? Others have stated that she never said she was suicidal when they booked her into jail. Once again, three days lone in a jail cell for a person that is suffering from depression can change things. In addition, I spoke to a nurse that works in a hospital ER that receives more than it's fair share of patients that are brought in after an arrest. She has had several lie to her about being suicidal in order to have the opportunity to attempt suicide. Most people that plan on taking their own lives do not broadcast it. Most won't tell people because they don't want to be stopped. Some are even able to put on a smile and lie straight to your face right up until the point that they follow through on their plans.
If the death of this young woman was in fact a suicide, then let us hope that it turns into a teachable moment. Perhaps her death will not be in vain if others can learn from it. To the woman her self, I just want to say, Rest in Peace.