A Chicago police officer fatally shot himself at his home on New Year’s Day, becoming at least the fourth officer the department has lost to suicide in the past six months.
Officer Dane Anthony Smith, 36, was off-duty when he died, according to CBS Chicago. Smith, who worked at police headquarters, died just two weeks after two of his colleagues, Officer Eduardo Marmolejo, 36, and Officer Conrad Gary, 31, were killed by a train as they chased a man they suspected of firing gunshots in the area a few minutes earlier.
It was a particularly tough year for the Chicago Police Department, which lost a total of four officers in the line of duty and at least three to suicide, all within the last half of the year. One of the officers killed himself in his patrol car while on duty; the other two, a man and a woman, died in the parking lots of two of the department’s police stations.
The city’s Fraternal Order of Police described Smith’s death as devastating.
“The FOP is devastated to report that another Chicago police officer has taken his life,” the order said on its Facebook page for Lodge No. 7. “We ask that everyone keep this officer and his family in your prayers.”
Chicago isn’t the only city that has lost officers to suicide in recent weeks. Veteran Cincinnati police Sgt. Arthur Schultz was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound Dec. 20 in a city park.
Just a day earlier in Florida, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy Terry Strawn, 58, killed himself in front of three colleagues after shooting to death his wife, Theresa Strawn, 52, their 6-year-old granddaughter, Londyn Strawn, and their daughter, Courtney Strawn, 32. Terry Strawn, who worked as a school resource officer at his granddaughter’s elementary school, confessed to the killings over the police radio shortly before his suicide.
Another school resource officer took his own life in November. Baltimore County police Officer Joseph Comegna, a school resource officer at Eastern Technical High School, fatally shot himself with his service revolver Nov. 12 in his office at the school, the Baltimore Sun reported.
An April 2018 study by the Ruderman Family Foundation found the number of suicides among first responders has greatly outpaced the number of those killed in the line of duty over the past several years. In 2017, when the foundation found there were at least 103 firefighter suicides and 140 police officer suicides, the number of firefighters killed while on the job was listed as 93.
A total of 129 police officers died in the line of duty in that same time frame, reported the foundation. The cause: Post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, which in first responders is found at a rate about five times that of the general population.
“First responders are heroes who run towards danger every day in order to save the lives of others,” Jay Ruderman, president of the foundation, said in a statement. “They are also human beings, and their work exerts a toll on their mental health. It is our obligation to support them in every way possible, to make sure that they feel welcome and able to access life-saving mental health care.”
The tally likely falls far short of the actual numbers, however, due to the stigma surrounding suicide and a tendency by law enforcement agencies and families to keep a first responder’s suicide under wraps. The foundation reported that the Firefighter Behavior Health Alliance estimates only about 40 percent of firefighter suicides get reported each year.
The number of police officers who died by their own hands is likely extremely underreported as well, study coauthor Miriam Heyman told USA Today. The mainstream media also tends to shy away from reporting a first responder’s suicide.
“It’s really shocking, and part of what’s interesting is that line-of-duty deaths are covered so widely by the press but suicides are not, and it’s because of the level of secrecy around these deaths, which really shows the stigmas,” Heyman said.
Nonprofit agency Blue H.E.L.P., which honors the service of police officers who die by suicide and seeks to prevent others from following suit, recorded 159 suicides for 2018. The nonprofit reported the same number for 2017, compared to the Ruderman Family Foundation’s tally of 140 that year.
Adequate help for PTSD and depression can be difficult to get, the foundation’s study said. Of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the country, only between 3 and 5 percent have suicide prevention programs.
The Chicago Police Department, criticized in a 2017 Department of Justice report for its lackluster mental health services for officers, is required under a consent decree filed last year to reform its outreach and counseling services, according to The Chicago Tribune. It is required by 2020 to have 10 clinicians on staff in its employee assistance program.
The department must also provide officers access to emergency counseling within 24 hours of a request and non-emergency counseling within two weeks of a request.
The department, which started out with just three clinicians, has already begun hiring more, police officials told the Tribune in September. Still, law enforcement and mental health experts worry that 10 clinicians won’t be enough for the department, which at about 12,000 officers is one of the largest in the nation, according to the newspaper.
“We need to end the silence that surrounds the issue of first responder mental health,” Ruderman said. “We should celebrate the lives of those lost to suicide at national monuments such as the National Law Enforcement Memorial, in the media and within police and fire departments around the country. Also, departments should encourage or require first responders to access mental health services annually.
“This will enable our heroes to identify issues early and get the help that they need. It will save lives.”
If you're thinking about suicide or worried about someone who might be, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to connect with a local crisis center. You can also text the Crisis Text Line by messaging HOME to 741741. Police officers can text the word BLUE to 741741.
Texts to the Crisis Text Line are free and confidential, though charges may apply for users with phone plans with carriers other than AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint or Verizon.
Autopsy reports have disclosed horrific new details in the October quadruple murder-suicide in which a Tennessee woman fired 34 rounds into her four adopted children before killing herself.
Cynthia Kessler Collier’s adult biological son discovered her body Oct. 15, along with those of his adopted siblings: Kaileigh Lin, 17, Lia Lin, 15, and 14-year-olds Meigan Lin and Bo Li. The son, who lived with his mother and siblings, found the family dead in their Columbia home when he returned home from work.
WKRN in Nashville reported that the children were killed with multiple guns, including a shotgun.
Kaileigh was found slain on the bathroom floor, 13 gunshot wounds piercing her body, the news station reported. Lia was found dead in her bed, suffering from nine gunshot wounds.
Bo was shot four times and Meigan, eight times. Like Lia, they were also killed in bed.
Collier, a 55-year-old stay-at-home mom who homeschooled the children, died of a single gunshot wound to the head, WKRN reported. Neither she nor any of the children had drugs or alcohol in their systems.
A suicide note was found, but authorities have not disclosed the contents of the note, the news station said. No motive for the slayings has been revealed.
Maury County Sheriff Bucky Rowland said in a news conference following the slayings that, by all accounts, Collier was a “very loving mother, with the exception of this one incident.”
“This appears to be a loving home,” Rowland said. “It’s an immaculate home and a very loving family, so a motive would be very important to know what would lead someone to do this to her loved ones.”
Watch Rowland’s entire Oct. 16 news conference below.
Collier’s obituary described her as a loving and devoted mother and grandmother.
“She was a tender and sweet soul who always put others first,” the obituary read. “She embodied selflessness, pure love, and a childlike, joyful spirit. Despite the struggles of her life, she sought to live out the will of God. She was adored and treasured by all of her children.”
The Collier children’s obituaries portray them as smart, loving and talented individuals with bright futures waiting for them.
“Kaileigh was a wise young woman of deep thought and astounding biblical knowledge,” the 17-year-old’s obituary read. “She was brilliant academically and held the highest of standards for herself in all things. She loved classic country and was passionate about music. She was on her way to becoming an accomplished guitar player and also enjoyed playing banjo and mandolin.
“In loving respect of her, she was more beautiful than she knew.”
Lia was described as “unrelenting joy and exuberance.”
“A loving and tender young woman who was always concerned about others’ well-being, she loved baking, crafting and sewing,” her obituary read. “Gift giving was something that made her truly light up. (She was) a sweet-hearted social butterfly who enjoyed good jokes and teasing.”
Meigan, like her older sister Kaileigh, loved music, but was also a budding artist.
“Meigan was a happy, contented and dynamic young woman,” her obituary read. “She loved to laugh and had a bright, fun-loving spirit. She dedicated much of her free time to artistic endeavors through sketches and music. She loved playing catchy instrumental songs on her guitar.”
Bo, the youngest by just a few months, shared many of his sisters’ talents.
“Bo was a spectacular young man in the midst of developing all the qualities of a great man,” his obituary read. “He had a brilliant mind, was always one for subtle witty jokes, and enjoyed playful teasing. Much like his siblings, he was very talented musically, playing instrumental songs on his piano and converting music by ear whenever he wanted.”
The Tennessean reported in October that Collier and her estranged husband, Randall Collier Sr., had been going through divorce proceedings in the months leading up to the murders, but that they had been trying to reconcile. The couple married in 1982 in Norfolk, Virginia, when Randall Collier was 22 and Cynthia Collier was 19, the newspaper said.
Randall Collier did not live at the family’s home when the shooting took place. Court records showed that the four children who were slain gave sworn statements in the divorce proceedings, saying they wanted to remain living with their mother and that they barely knew their father.
The couple’s three biological children -- two sons and a daughter -- also gave sworn statements in which they said their own relationships with their father had been strained, even before the Colliers’ 2007 separation.
The four adopted children were adopted from China between 2003 and 2008, the Tennessean reported. It was unclear if Randall Collier participated in all the adoptions, given the couple’s separation.
Rowland said Randall Collier and other family members were interviewed during the investigation into the shootings, but the department has no evidence that the crime was anything other than a murder-suicide. His department had no record of any domestic calls to the home prior to the son’s 911 call reporting his grisly discovery.
As a grieving California couple shares photos of their 13-year-old son with autism, who died last month after being restrained by teachers, other parents have begun pulling their children from the inclusive private K-12 school where it took place.
The parents of Max Benson, a student at Guiding Hands School in El Dorado Hills, shared photos of their son with Fox 40 in Sacramento to show his sweet demeanor, the news station said. The family, from Davis, is also fighting back at Guiding Hands, which a preliminary investigation by the state shows violated multiple rules in its handling of the boy.
Max was allegedly placed in a prone restraint, face-down on the floor, Nov. 28 after school officials said he became violent. The El Dorado Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the incident, said in a news release that Max was 6 feet tall and weighed about 280 pounds.
An attorney for Max’s family, Seth Goldstein, disputed the claims of the boy’s height and weight, saying that Max was 5 feet, 4 inches tall. At most, he weighed 230 pounds, Goldstein said.
“He was not an unmanageable child in any sense of that term, in terms of that size,” Goldstein told The Sacramento Bee.
The Bee previously reported that sources said Max was held in the prone restraint position for about an hour before he became unresponsive.
“A teacher began CPR until medical aid arrived,” a news release from the Sheriff’s Office said. “The student was transported to Mercy Folsom in critical condition and later to UC Davis (Medical Center).”
Max died two days later.
“At this time, there appears to be no evidence of foul play or criminal intent,” investigators said in the release.
Cherilyn Caler, whose own 13-year-old son witnessed the restraint used on Max, said the teacher and an aide restrained the boy, who had been a student there for just a few months, because he kicked a wall, the Bee reported. A second parent who asked to remain anonymous backed Caler’s account.
Caler told the newspaper her son, who is also on the autism spectrum, told her Max became unresponsive, at which point those restraining him told him to stop pretending to be asleep. After about 30 minutes, they realized he wasn’t pretending, she said.
Caler has since removed her son from the school, the Bee reported.
A Dec. 5 letter from the California Department of Education states that staff members at Guiding Hills violated multiple state rules when trying to get Max under control. The Department of Education’s own preliminary investigation found that the staff used an emergency intervention to stop predictable, or non-emergency, behavior.
It also found that an emergency intervention was used as a substitute for Max’s behavioral intervention plan, or BIP, which is designed to change, replace, modify or eliminate a targeted behavior. The intervention was also used for longer than necessary and it was used with an amount of force that was “not reasonable and necessary under the circumstances.”
The school staff’s actions also failed to take into account Max’s individualized education program, or IEP, which required specific intervention strategies that were not used, the letter says.
Guiding Hands School’s certification has been suspended until the end of 2019, according to the letter. The school can continue to serve current students but cannot accept new pupils.
“The (California Department of Education) is continuing to conduct its investigation into the actions of (Guiding Hands),” the letter reads. It is likely required corrective actions will be issued by the CDE resulting from this investigation.”
All corrective actions would have to be completed for the school to regain its certification.
Caler is not the only parent who has pulled their child out of Guiding Hands, which had an enrollment of 137 this school year, according to state records.
Melissa Lasater told Fox 40 that she was appalled at how the school handled Max’s death.
“When they were bringing the chaplains from class to class, instead of just letting the chaplains say, ‘We’re here for you,’ the staff also shared their message: ‘Just so you know, we didn’t kill anyone,’” Lasater told the news station.
Lasater said her own 13-year-old son, who knew Max, did not realize his classmate died until his death made the news about a week later.
“He immediately started to, like, cry and started to process, like, ‘Who’s been missing the last few days, who could it be?’” Lasater said. “And then his face just dropped and he’s, like, ‘Mom, mom, it was Max. They killed Max.’ And then he was petrified.”
Lasater said the school had used restraints on her son in the past, sometimes leaving him with bruises. In the wake of Max’s death, she initially revoked her permission for the school to use any force on her son.
Ultimately, she chose to pull him from the school.
“They’re all still there with the same staff, who are trained in the same techniques, who are going to use them the same way. They use them as punishment,” Lasater told Fox 40.
Other parents and students tell stories of physical restraint being used as punishment.
Josh Greenfield, 23, was a student at Guiding Hands until 2013, the Bee reported. Greenfield told the newspaper he was restrained twice during his time there and found the experiences frightening.
The restraints were excessive and were done for dubious reasons, according to the former student. He told the Bee he was once placed in a prone restraint because he ignored a teacher calling his name in a hallway.
Melanie Stark, of Elk Grove, pulled her 9-year-old son from Guiding Hands Thursday, the Bee reported. She also has a pending complaint with the Department of Education regarding the use of restraints in the school.
Stark said her son was restrained on his first day at the school in September. She said a teacher’s aide wrapped her arms and legs around the boy so he could not get up from his desk.
The reasoning was to keep him seated and guide him through the activity he was working on, she said.
“That was too aggressive and it was happening about four times a week,” Stark told the Bee.
Rebecca St. Clair, of Folsom, told the newspaper her son was put in a prone restraint two years ago. In that incident, staff members rolled him inside a gym mat and put their weight on the mat to keep him still.
Despite being upset by the incident, it was not until the week before Max’s death, when she personally witnessed a student being rolled inside a mat that she realized how “alarming and unsettling” the practice is, the Bee reported.
“I tried to assure myself that this was based on trust. I really trusted the teachers,” St. Clair told the newspaper. “That trust has been broken. I thought they were so careful. I feel so wrong about that now.”
Lasater and others protested outside the California Department of Education Monday, demanding that Guiding Hands be shut down. One of those protesting was Katie Kaufman, a former student there.
According to CBS Sacramento, Kaufman said she also was restrained multiple times at the school.
“They always use the one where you throw the person on the floor in a body slam,” Kaufman told the news station. “It was a matter of time. Someone dies, and they finally start listening.”
Christmas parties, work potlucks and family get-togethers mean a lot of baking in the coming weeks.
If you’re tempted to lick the bowl after mixing cake batter or dig into that raw cookie dough, however, you need to resist.
Consuming unbaked food that is supposed to be cooked can make you sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Kids also can get sick from handling raw dough used for crafts, the CDC says.
Most people know that eating raw eggs can contain salmonella, which can cause illness if the eggs aren’t cooked properly.
The CDC estimates salmonella causes about 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths in the United States every year. Food is the source for about 1 million of these illnesses.
Bacteria aren’t lurking only in eggs, though. Flour, which is usually a raw product, usually isn’t treated for germs like E. coli. The CDC reported an outbreak of E. coli infections linked to raw flour made 63 people sick in 2016. Some E. coli can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness, bloodstream infections and other illnesses.
“Raw flour is a raw product, and it doesn’t go through any heat treatment before you get it,” Benjamin Chapman, an assistant professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University, told SELF Magazine in 2017. “You should treat that flour like you’re handling raw meat.”
It doesn’t mean you can never eat raw cookie dough. Dough that is commercially produced to be edible is safe.
The CDC suggests the following safe practices to avoid getting ill:
Cases of a mysterious illness that's leaving children paralyzed have nearly doubled in the last month.
A total of 116 cases have been confirmed across the country, including three in Georgia.
It’s called acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM. The illness starts off like the common cold and then leads to polio-like symptoms, including partial paralysis.
But now doctors are seeing new hope when it comes to restoring mobility. They’re trying out a surgical procedure that move healthy nerves.
They just performed the microsurgery on an 8-year-old who first had a sinus infection and then lost strength in his left arm.
"Tahi had a droopy face, he lost his core strength, so he was unable to sit up without assistance," said the boy’s mother,” Trisha Toya.
Doctors are trying out the surgical procedure that moves healthy nerves.
What we're doing is microsurgery and disconnecting from one muscle and tunneling it to a new target,” said Dr. Mitchel Seruya of Children's Hospital of Los Angeles.
Doctors said timing for this surgery is critical because it must be done within the first 18 months of diagnosis.
Even with the rise in cases, according to the CDC, “less than one to two in a million children in the United States will get AFM every year.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a Nov. 23 update that there are 116 confirmed cases of acute flaccid myelitis, a condition that affects the nervous system, causing a polio-like illness.
Although rare, the CDC said the 116 confirmed cases are among the 286 total reports the group received so far in 2018.
“It affects the nervous system, specifically the area of the spinal cord called gray matter, which causes the muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak,” the agency said. “CDC has been thoroughly investigating the AFM cases that have occurred since 2014, when we first noted a large number of cases being reported.”
The agency said it has not identified a confirmed cause for AFM. It said more than 90 percent of patients with AFM had a mild fever or respiratory illness consistent with a viral infection, such as enteroviruses, before they developed the condition.
The CDC is continuing to investigate why a small number of people develop AFM and most others recover.
Despite the illness being compared to polio, the CDC said it is not caused by poliovirus.
More information is at CDC.gov.
A 73-year-old Colorado grandmother is considering legal action after doctors at the University of Colorado Hospital removed both of her healthy kidneys in May, KDVR reported.
Linda Woolley, of Englewood, said doctors told her surgery was necessary because she likely had kidney cancer, the television station reported.
However, KDVR obtained a copy of a March 2018 biopsy that showed "no evidence of malignancy" and results "consistent with a benign process."
“I’m not real happy,” Woolley told the television station.
Because both kidneys were removed, Woolley requires four hours of dialysis three times a week, KDVR reported.
"My life was totally changed,” Woolley told the television station. “Dialysis is no picnic. No matter how used to it you get, it robs you of your life.”
Woolley now needs at least one healthy kidney, and the average waiting time for a transplant is seven years, KDVR reported. More than 95,000 people are on a waiting list, the television station reported.
At least five people have contacted KDVR, telling reporters they were willing to offer a kidney.
"People are wonderful. It’s wonderful to see good things happen," Woolley told the television station.
Woolley said she is not necessarily looking for an apology from the hospital, which has not commented on the incident.
“(But) I feel like they owe me a kidney, that's for sure," Woolley told KDVR.
Fifteen years after tossing her twins off a bridge into the Mississippi River, a Minnesota woman is using her story to raise awareness about mental illness, KARE reported.
Naomi Gaines was 24 when she threw her 14-month-old sons, Sincere Understanding Allah and Supreme Knowledge Allah, into the river near St. Paul on July 4, 2003, and then jumped into the water, the Star Tribune reported in 2003. Sincere drowned, and Gaines was convicted of second-degree murder and second-degree attempted murder, KARE reported.
Gaines, now 39, served 15 years in prison and spent time at a mental health treatment center,
After the death of her son, Gaines was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis, bipolar and schizoaffective disorder, the television station reported.Now, Gaines is reaching out to help people with similar mental conditions.
“If there is another Naomi Gaines out there, you are not alone. Mental illness is not a character flaw. It is not a weakness to ask for help. It is a strength,” Gaines told KARE. “What I wouldn't give to go back and say, 'I am not OK, and I need help.'”
Gaines now works part-time at the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Minnesota.
“I got the most help for my mental illness while incarcerated," Gaines told KARE. "That is when the prevention classes, groups, therapy and medication happened, after it was already too late for my son."
A lawsuit filed on behalf of a New Mexico author alleges that a Santa Fe hospital revived the woman in violation of her “do not resuscitate” directive while she was in the facility’s care in 2016, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
The lawsuit filed in New Mexico state district court against Santa Fe's Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center alleges that the hospital was negligent twice in its treatment of Jamie Sams, a writer known for her books about spirituality.
The lawsuit also alleges that Sams was given the painkiller Dilaudid, a medicine she claims she is allergic to, the Journal reported. Sams suffers from Dercum’s, a rare disease that produces tumors all over the body, the newspaper reported.
According to court documents obtained by the Journal, Sams went into cardiac arrest after receiving the drug in the emergency room on Feb. 5, 2016, and the hospital’s negligence was compounded when she was resuscitated -- something she did not want. Sams had signed a “Double DNR (do not resuscitate)” form, the newspaper reported.
“As a result of being revived, Plaintiff continues to experience severe pain, disability and limitations and further, will incur extensive expenses throughout the remainder of her life,” the lawsuit against the hospital and emergency room doctor Jamie Gagan states. “This condition is extremely debilitating and painful and, moreover, requires frequent hospitalization and medication at great expense.”
Christus spokesman Arturo Delgado told the Journal that Gagan works for HealthFront, which does emergency services work for the hospital. He said he could not comment on the lawsuit.
Sams is a Native American author who co-wrote “Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals.” According to her author biography on the Amazon website, she is a member of the Wolf Clan Teaching Lodge. Sams is half French and half American Indian, with ancestors from the Cherokee, Seneca, Choctaw, and Mohawk tribes according to her profile at Spirituality & Practice.
People who get more than just blue in the winter months may find they have seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. Before self-diagnosing, it’s important to research the disorder and speak with a health care provider.
Here are some things to know about SAD.
What is it?
According to the National Institutes of Health, SAD, also called seasonal depression or seasonal mood disorder, is a type of depression that typically starts in late fall and early winter and goes away during the spring and summer.
For some it starts in the spring and summer and goes away in the fall or winter, but that’s very rare.
The cause of the disorder is not known, but researchers say those who have the disorder are found to have an imbalance of serotonin, which affects mood, and not enough vitamin D, which comes from sunlight, among other places. They also have too much melatonin, which regulates sleep, according to the NIH.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms may include feeling sad, irritable, hopeless or worthless, having low energy, difficulty eating or sleeping, a gloomy outlook, losing interest in activities you used to enjoy and thoughts of death or suicide. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD include oversleeping, wright gain and appetite changes, particularly craving high-carb foods. Symptoms specific to summer-onset SAD include insomnia, agitation or anxiety, loss of appetite and weight loss.
People with those symptoms and who feel depressed for days at a time should see their doctor.
Who does SAD affect?
Anyone can be affected by SAD, but it is more common in women, young people, and people who live far from the equator, in areas where there is less sunlight throughout the day. People who have bipolar disorder or major depression, as well as those with blood relatives with SAD or other forms of depression, are more likely to be at risk of the disorder.
How can it be treated?
Light therapy is typically the main treatment for SAD. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, other treatments include medication, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and psychotherapy.
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