Letter from Skip Simpson to Ann Landers

This letter from Skip Simpson to Ann Landers was published the week of June 15, 1998

Dear Ann Landers: I am an attorney who fights psychiatric malpractice. In my work, I've seen many families agonize over deaths that could have been prevented. While we have been told that no one is to blame when someone takes his or her own life, the truth is that many deaths could be averted if mental health workers, physicians and families would simply stop, look and listen.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says up to two-thirds of the people who commit suicide each year saw a medical doctor within a month of their death. Half of those patients killed themselves with medicines prescribed by their doctors. While the suicides of teenagers and members of minority groups are a serious problem, few people realize that fully one-third of all suicides are white men over 50.

Suicide is not a random act. Members of the medical and mental health communities must take notice of the changes that occur when a person is becoming suicidal. Physicians should be as aware of the symptoms of life-threatening mental illness as they are of signs of physical illness.

Families can be lifesavers, too. Seventy-five percent of all those who commit suicide give friends and family members some warning. If you see the danger signs, please take them seriously, and get help for your loved one right away. Those symptoms include:

  1. Depressed mood or a dramatic loss of appetite and energy.
  2. Talking about death and dying. Saying such things as "You'd be better off without me."
  3. Demonstration of extreme anxiety, agitation or rage.
  4. Excessive drug or alcohol use.
  5. Planning for suicide, such as paying of debts, changing wills or giving things away.

The more we know about suicide, the better able we are to help potential victims seek another alternative. - Skip Simpson, Dallas

Dear Skip Simpson: You have written a letter that could save lives. If only those who are considering suicide could keep repeating to themselves "And this, too, shall pass" - and believe it - they just might crawl out of that deep, dark hole.

I urge all people who have suicidal tendencies to get counseling and seek medical help. There are now anti-depressants and other medications available that can work wonders.