Suicide by Starvation

Tom Verghese, April 19, 2012

John is in his early forties. He never married, has no children and except for one sister, is quite alone.

2008 was his best year, financially speaking. He earned over a quarter million dollars between his job as a loan officer and his business a landlord of several rental properties.

The same year he wandered into the woods by himself, determined to starve himself to death. Three days later, he emerged, scared out of his wits that he would be eaten alive by creatures in the woods. He walked back to his apartment and asked his room-mate to call an ambulance. He was hospitalized briefly and discharged with the usual dose of psychiatric medications, which he discontinued as soon as the dose ran out.

A year later, he again tried to commit suicide by starvation, in much the same way, with much the same result.

Over 6’ tall, good looking and in excellent physical health, he has been in and out of jail for a hit and run, a harassment case and for aggravated assault.  He thinks he suffers from Bipolar Depression since his teenage years, but does not see his Doctor regularly or maintain his treatment.

Like many fellow sufferers, he has little insight and has no hope for the future. We do not know when he will wander out into the woods again.

Mental health is precious. It needs to be treated just like physical ailments need to be treated in time. And unless there is genuine therapeutic alliance between patient, doctor and concerned caregivers, outcomes tend to range between desperate and hopeless.

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