The death of actor Robin Williams last week by suicide reminds us that even those who make us laugh and have lives of wealth and riches can suffer from the darkness of depression.
There was some criticism after his death about the amount of detail that was given by authorities. That kind of discussion has become more and more common in journalistic circles whenever there is a high-profile suicide.
Most newspapers like this one have policies that generally don’t say someone died by suicide unless it involved a public official, or happens in a public place.
But I wonder if that’s that right policy to have. Are we somehow pushing depression and suicide further into the darkness by not acknowledging it exists in our communities? Are we somehow making depression and mental health concerns “shameful” by pretending a suicide didn’t really happen, or if it does, to hide it? (There was a time when you would never mention someone died of “cancer” because that was considered taboo, too.)
Perhaps we as a newspaper — and as a society in general — should be more open in talking about suicide and related mental health problems. And in this age of social media, perhaps newspapers should be more aggressive in reporting accurate information about community suicides rather than allowing rumor, gossip and misinformation to go unchallenged on Facebook postings.
It’s a tough call. Families are often sensitive about suicides and there is a line somewhere between what is legitimate public interest and what can be private, painful details.
Williams’ untimely death reminds us of that, too.
I’m not sure exactly what happened in Ferguson, MO, when a young black man was shot by a cop last week. But I’m tired of all the saturation television coverage. With all that’s going on in the world, Ferguson surely isn’t the most important story happening right now.
Unless, of course, you want to pander to racial stereotypes and fan the flames of racial unrest. Then Ferguson becomes shorthand for all kinds of groups wanting to exploit a death for political commentary.
Frankly, I don’t trust any side of the Ferguson issue.
There are a lot of bad small town police departments made up of undisciplined cops who lack the training and maturity to be given a gun and a badge.
That may not be the case in Ferguson, but shooting an unarmed guy six times in the middle of the street in broad daylight makes me think the cop pulling the trigger was scared. Whether he had a right to be scared isn’t yet clear. Witnesses differ on what happened in the moments before the shooting.
But the victim wasn’t a saint, either. He was apparently a punk, having robbed a story of some cigars and shoved the owner around just moments before the shooting took place.
He and the cop then had an altercation apparently after the cop told him to get out of walking in the middle of the road. (Why do young black males walk in the middle of the street and force cars to stop? It happens everywhere, small towns and large towns. Is it some kind of game? I have never understood it.)
Just because you’re a punk doesn’t mean you deserve to get shot, of course, but it doesn’t exactly fill out your dance card for sainthood, either.
Nor is all the violence and looting taking place now justified by what happened. Some call it anger at the “system” being expressed.
I’d guess its just more punks, many from out of town, taking advantage of the situation. The people I’ve seen interviewed in Ferguson say they want the violence and looting to stop.
It’s a big mess and there’s probably a lot of fault to spread around on all sides of the issue. When all the investigations are done, maybe we will have a clearer picture.
But can’t we turn it off for a few minutes and report about something else? What happened to Ebola?
There’s an interesting lawsuit involving the neighboring Oconee County School System and a child who has epilepsy in that system. The school system is fighting an order that it provide an aide to an epilepsy patient who can administer a Diastat treatment should the child have a seizure while on a bus or school field trip.
Oconee County school officials need to wake up and do the right thing here. Other area school system leaders need to hear this message too.
I’m the parent of a son who began having seizures at age 6. I’ve given him Diastat injections hundreds and hundreds of times over the last 13 years. It’s a life-saving treatment for epilepsy patients (children and adults) who have bad seizures that could kill them.
A Diastat isn’t a fancy device. It’s a rectal injection designed for layman use by parents, caregivers, school teachers and others. It doesn’t take much training — maybe 30 seconds to show someone how to use it.
And it can be used anywhere. I’ve given it to my son on airplanes, the side of the road, in the car seat, in the rain, and in hundreds of other places. That’s what its designed for — critical care use anywhere, anytime.
I had to Diastat my son last Saturday night. It’s a routine part of life for him.
For some reason, however, Oconee school officials are reluctant to have anyone in the system trained on the simple device when that child on a bus. They reportedly had a policy of just calling 911 and waiting on an ambulance.
Which is stupid. By the time an ambulance arrives to help some seizure patients, the patient could be dead (not all seizure patients are that bad, but some are prone to status seizures that can kill.)
That’s why the Diastat was created by the medical community in the first place — to have a layman or parent take action to save a life before professional medical care arrives. It was designed to be used by non-medical people.
When my son was in the Jefferson City School System, we never had a problem with officials being responsive to using a Diastat, or making sure he was taken care of. Teachers gave him the Diastat several times. It was no big deal. System officials understood the serious nature of his condition and did everything they could to make sure his safety and health came first.
So I’m amazed that a progressive school system like Oconee, one of the top academic school systems in the state, is living in the Dark Ages when it comes to looking after the health of a one of its epilepsy students.
Children don’t choose to have seizures and epilepsy. It’s a terrible thing to endure and heart-breaking for all involved.
In a school setting, epilepsy children are dependent on those around them to make sure they are safe if they have a seizure happen. It’s not something they control. No child wants to have a seizure at school, or on a school bus, or in the lunchroom.
If that means showing a teacher or bus driver or aide how to use a simple Diastat, then so be it. No need to call 911 or wait around while a child chokes to death just because uninformed school leaders are more worried about liability and “procedure” than they are the life of a child.
All school systems in the area need to get better informed about how to deal with students who have epilepsy.
The state forces students to attend school and local school districts should exercise some common sense when it comes to meeting critical medical needs with epilepsy patients.
Mike Buffington is co-publisher of Mainstreet Newspapers, Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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