I wanted to both thank and congratulate Thomas Curwen for his article about suicide ("Psychache," June 3). Thanks to his sensitivity and compassion, I feel I have a deeper understanding of suicide. It's not that I "know" it more, but I have a better sense of the context in which to view it. My congratulations for a brilliant piece of writing. I wanted to read on, to hear more, to have Curwen share more of his experience and perceptions.
Via the Internet
As the counseling supervisor for the Hospice of San Luis Obispo County, I have had the opportunity to witness a great number of individuals who are attempting to piece their lives back together after the suicide of a loved one. Curwen brings to light a darkness in our society that is all too often ignored--which, of course, often complicates the grief process for those who are touched by suicide. As acutely affected as the bereaved are, there seems to be an inverse proportion of denial and lack of support in our society. Hopefully, when a major, well-respected paper such as the Los Angeles Times has the courage to publish an article on the subject [of suicide], others will seek support, knowing that they are not alone.
San Luis Obispo
Curwen's attempt to understand Hilda's suicide motivated him to meet the great Edwin Shneidman. I met Shneidman in 1967 when I was double majoring in art and psychology at the University of Nevada in Reno. Receiving a grant to work under Dr. James B. Nichols, I chose suicide as a topic of research.
I was assigned a list of individuals who had attempted suicide in the Reno area but were still alive. The homes we visited were often defiant in their refusal to welcome anyone. There were signs such as "No Solicitors Allowed" and "Beware of Dog." These people did not want to talk.
Dr. Nichols and I decided to start a suicide prevention center in Reno so that people could talk anonymously in times of crisis. It is still in operation today. People often just need someone to answer their cry for help. We can talk them out of exiting their existence. Many, many lives have been saved through this valuable method.