Suicide: Facing The Elephant In The Room

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MONROE, La. (KTVE) — Old photos show much happier times Donna Camp and her big sister, Angela.

“I did terrorize her a little bit. I use to bury her baby dolls, throw turtles in the swimming pool with her, ” said her sister Donna Camp as she recounted story after of their childhood.

Those very distant memories all she has now with no hope of making new ones in the years to come. So many making the loss even more painful.

“But as a teenager when she started driving she would take me places. She was just my friend, ” said Camp.

Camp says her sister, Angela Hoffman had battled depression for years, and it was  possibly triggered after a near fatal shooting of their father.

“She struggled with that being there when he was shot not knowing who shot him from there she started drinking and messing with recreational drugs,” she said. 

Less than a month ago the pain of it all apparently too much for Hoffman….her final trip the cemetery: To the grave site of her second husband.  

“She went to his grave they says the gun was still in her hands she shot herself in the temple with a .38 and her body just fell over his tombstone,” said Camp as she looked down at her hands.

The high profile deaths of fashion designer, Kate Spade and Celebrity Chef, Anthony Bourdain have brought the issue of suicide to the national spotlight. In Louisiana suicide is the eleventh  leading cause of death and third among 15 to 34 year olds.

“It’s a coming of age their bodies are changing their minds are changing and we want to make sure we educate them on what to do and how important it is to tell a trusting adult they need help,” Jan Daniels of the Children’s Coalition.

Daniels has counseled middle schoolers through the children coalition’s signs of suicide program for more than 15 years. And with a recent study ranking Louisiana the number one state for bullying. She says it is essential that students and parents have open and honest conversations about issues like suicide which have become social media hot buttons. Others in the mental health field agree.

“It’s so painful it’s sometimes something that is unimaginable,” said Jennifer Ditter of the WellSpring.

Jennifer Ditter knows the struggle many families face all too well. Ditter is  licensed professional counselor with the wellspring  a non profit organization that offers services to strengthen families through programs and counseling  she says sometimes shame can lead to deadly consequences.

“Sometimes there is a stigma that comes with it and what we need to do is educate our community that there doesn’t need to be a stigma because getting help for any reason is a good thing.  If we have a headache we are going to get help in some kind of way  if we are suffering from a physical disease we are going to get help, ” said Ditter.

Organizations like WellSpring hold meetings to raise awareness and educate.   This recent one at library in West Monroe allowed residents to  ask questions about what some call the elephant in the room  and offered information to make sure they know the warning signs.

Programs,  seminars, support groups and even suicide prevention hotlines but still the numbers of suicides around the country and here at home are on the rise.  Is the bayou state doing enough to address the issue?

“We need to keep on. We need to keep on we need to get more licensed therapists we need to get more doctors that are specializing in mental health treatment we need to continue to do what we do best that is to treat the ones that need the help the most,” said Ditter.

For Donna Camp although she believes there were signs her sister was troubled she could have never imagined her life would end like this. She did leave a suicide note, but also many questions that will likely never be answered.

“Not a reason why or  nothing like that. (Natasha question) Is that hard not knowing exacting what was going through her life as a sister?  It’s hard but I have faith in God and know everything is in his plans. Something had to give her the strength to pull that trigger, ” said Camp.

Just days after her death camp got a tattoo a special one  honoring her big sister’s memory and the message that she hopes others see: That their story continues.

“It’s got the semi colon on it with her name Angie, ” She said.

She says she’s still somewhat in shock and began to write her feeling down even calling and reading  her message on her sister’s cellphone.

“All my days now start without you although I know your pain is no more how I would love to hear your voice if only to here you tell me you loved me once more,” said reciting a poem she wrote to heal the pain of losing her sister.

We have also learned sixteen percent of Louisiana 6-77 suicides in 20-16 were military veterans.

Veteran administration officials estimate 20 vets take their lives everyday also a growing problems.

But if you are concerned someone has suicidal thoughts or needs help call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

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