Web posted Thursday, August 26,
Families look for
answers after suicide of loved one
By FOSS FARRAR
Traveler Staff Writer
The suicide of a loved one
leaves a family with a huge loss and many questions,
said Donna Kunkel, of Arkansas City.
this from personal experience. Her son Rhett tragically
took his own life last October.
"Suicide is an
important subject to be discussed," Kunkel said in a
recent interview. "Unfortunately, it isn't because of
the stigma of suicide."
Suicide Prevention Week
is Sept. 5-11. Although there hasn't been a significant
rise in the suicide rate in recent years, the rate for
young men has quadrupled over the past 60 years,
according to the American Association of
Rhett was only 21 years old when he
died, and his age group -- 15 to 24 -- is one of the
highest at-risk for suicide.
is the third leading cause of death for youth. According
to statistics from the American Association of
Suicidology, a young person commits suicide every two
hours and 15 minutes -- about 11 a day.
feelings of loss from her son's death were rekindled
after she watched TV coverage of the death of the
teenage son of Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan. His son Luke,
16, died of an apparent suicide on July
"That's why I'm here," Kunkel said at the
start of the interview. "After my husband and I watched
that news report, I didn't realize I was crying. My
heart aches for (the Tiahrts)."
Kunkel said that
suicide is a mysterious death because people don't know
the "how" or the "why" behind a person's
"Rhett was depressed and having some
personal issues that, at the time, he thought could be
resolved," she said.
Her son had been arrested
for driving under the influence the night before he took
his life, but Kunkel believes the DUI was only one
factor that may have caused him to take his
She said her son had been taking
antidepressants but constantly complained of headaches.
She urged him to go to another doctor, but he put off
"If you don't think you're getting the
right help, go to someone else," she said.
doesn't blame her son for hurting the family, although
his death does hurt.
"I don't want anyone to say
to me, 'How could he do this to his mom,'" she said. "It
wasn't about me. Family was very important to Rhett. He
loved me, he loved his dad and he adored his little
In a sense, Rhett's death has drawn the
family together, but in grief, she added.
agreed that if we couldn't handle our grief, we'd go to
a counselor. As a family, we now talk a
Dean Hall, a licensed marriage and family
therapist in Arkansas City, said the number of suicidal
clients he sees in this area has neither increased nor
decreased in recent years.
"It goes in waves,"
Hall said. "I'm seeing only a few now, but a year and a
half ago, I had seven."
In the winter, the number
of people who are thinking about suicide usually rises,
he added. Less sunlight and cold weather seems to make
The biggest two factors leading
to suicide are alcoholism and drug abuse, Hall said. If
a client is an alcoholic or drug user, Hall said he
would refer them to treatment.
"For most clients,
though, depression is temporary," he said. "They find
relief fairly quickly, within weeks."
suggests that people who are depressed or have suicidal
thoughts need to seek the support of family and friends.
And family and friends of someone who talks about
suicide should take them seriously and offer their
If there are drugs or alcohol involved,
the family or friends should arrange an intervention to
get their loved one into treatment, he
"Most of the time, women will act suicidal
in order to get help," he said. "But most men don't show
signs they will commit suicide."