Monster: Suicide, Statistics and Sadness
The numbers about suicide have numbed us over the years:
- In 2014, 120 of our fellow Wyomingites took their own lives, for a rate of 22.8 per 100,000 people, nearly twice the national average, according to the Wyoming Department of Health
- If Wyoming were a nation, it would rank about No. 8 worldwide for its suicide rate.
- For 2014 in Natrona County alone, County Coroner Connie Jacobson reported there were 22 suicides for a rate of 24.6 per 100,000. There were 16 in 2011, 21 in 2012, and 17 in 2013.
- So far in 2015, there have been 18 suicides through July.
Over the years, it’s fair to say most of us have known people who have killed themselves, and that their deaths have affected our lives.
Yet the statistics seemed so bloodless. The personal experiences seemed so isolated.
Until March 10.
Early that morning, Casper businessman, oil man, family man, philanthropist, Corvette collector and the guy everyone knew -- Mick McMurry - killed himself by a self-inflicted gunshot at his mansion on Newport Street.
And the questions we asked privately became public:
- How could someone do this to himself who was so popular, so rich, so generous?
- Didn’t anyone see any signs that he was struggling?
- Why didn’t he ask for help?
These questions aren’t new, and we aren’t alone in asking them.
Casper resident Lance Neiberger said his 17-year-old son Lyle hanged himself in a closet at their house in March 2006.
After most of the shock wore off, Neiberger decided to do something to help people, he said. "I don't want to see anyone go through this. It's so devastating. It tears everybody apart."
He began working with the Natrona County Suicide Prevention Task Force, and told his story in schools and elsewhere, saying the community needs to expose this monster.
Neiberger, recounting the last months of his son's life, also talks about warning signs including more agitated and aggressive behavior, engaging in more risky behavior such as excessive drinking, and driving resulting in traffic tickets.
"I couldn't tell the difference between teenage drama and a call for help," he said. "We had no prior family or close encounters with suicides and so I really wasn't sure what to look for. I didn't know what was going on, and I figured it would never happen in my family."
But it did happen to his family, and it can happen to anyone.
"It's kind of the monster in the closet, that as long as we keep it hidden as long as we don't want to deal with it, that monster has power over us," Neiberger said. "But if we can open that closet door and see that there's something there that can be dealt with, then that monster doesn't hold the power that it used to."
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. K2 Radio will share stories of those shaken personally by suicide.
We will talk to those who have grappled with suicide and why it affects our communities and state so deeply.
And we will look what has and is being done to identify and tame this monster among us.