The All-American Murder/Suicide

Just two days after Olin Johnson shot his wife and then himself to death, his neighbors invite you to this afternoon’s celebration of his life:

PLEASE BRING GOODIES TO SHARE!

Bloodsoaked bodies are still warm, but this will be a wholesome Mormon hoedown, promising “warm memories!” A maniac with a million guns in his house just up and slaughtered his wife with one of them. Let’s celebrate!

Wealthy, well-connected Olin had a big ol’ church to help him, plus a psychiatrist or two out in American Fork, Utah. Did he consult any of that as he descended into madness? Did anybody around him (he had six grown kids and tons of neighbors/business associates) wonder whether they should at least be a mite disturbed by the fact that Olin had turned his house into an armory? “Hey, Olin’s acting real weird. Shouldn’t we try taking his guns away?”

Ah fuck. As if anyone could imagine anyone in Utah – aka Suicide Central – saying something like that.

Sig Sauer: Chose this for his FB photo. Guess it was his favorite out of all of his guns.

And where, since we have the highest suicide rate in the country, chances are one of the male cops in this picture will shoot himself to death.
Another campus suicide cluster.

Four student deaths at UW River Falls, in pretty quick succession – with all of them apparently serious depressives … That sounds very much like a cluster, one death inspiring another.

[Tania] Riske said [her daughter] Sabrina struggled with severe depression for many years. She had a team of counselors and doctors working with her in her hometown of Eau Claire. But Sabrina declined help from campus counselors, Riske said…

“A lot of people were asking me what [the university] could have done better. I don’t think it had anything to do with a shortcoming,” Riske said. “I think they are doing appropriate things. And I’m happy about that.”  

As with this earlier post about campus suicide clusters, the problem is not necessarily a lack of school support, though obviously there’s always room for a school to monitor some students more closely, add therapists, etc. The problem is that in some cases of severe protracted depression there’s not much that love, pills, ketamine, teams of counselors and doctors, etc., can do. It’s a hellishly powerful drive, the drive to leave.

The mother of a suicide (her son’s name was Seth) talks about another recent suicide (John).

You could not have prevented it. Even if you think that you could have on that particular occasion, there is no guarantee that it would not have happened some other time. If you are wondering why you didn’t go with John or ask him to come over if he seemed out of sorts, don’t blame yourself. Seth’s roommate was in an adjoining room when he died. Having someone nearby made no difference at all.

If you’re trying to make rational sense of how something like this could happen to someone with such talent and such a bright future, you really can’t think about it rationally — there is no rational explanation. Normal people, those who are not sick in some way, do not kill themselves. Our most basic human instinct is for survival, so to cause one’s own demise subverts that in ways our healthy intellects can’t imagine.

If you’re thinking that John made a choice to end his life, I can’t agree. Whatever was tormenting him — depression, mental illness, some event that threw his mental wiring off kilter — that is what took him. As I said before, it isn’t a rational choice. Suicides are committed by people driven by a distorted mental and emotional reality. It isn’t really a choice.

Americans are practical, success-oriented, ingenious, optimistic, religious — it’s arguably particularly hard for Americans to come to grips with the deathward tenacity of some suicidal people.

I mean, maybe we can grasp this in a frail eighty-year old. A twenty year old college student?

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Forget slipped the surly bonds: We’re talking stripped the bonds off hard, with both hands. “I’m climbing up through the clouds and then just gonna head out outside of everything,” a 23 year old student pilot not long ago radioed a confused traffic controller before crashing his plane. He desperately wanted out of everything. His words have gone viral – there’s poetry in head out outside of everything – and we should pay attention to them. Some suicides are virtually punching their way out of the atmosphere. Hard to go up against such people.

‘Following research that indicates that spending too much time talking about or commemorating a [university] student who has died by suicide can risk “contagion,” … the faculty [was encouraged] to retain as normal an educational experience as possible. The university … organized no memorials or vigils.’

Long article in the NYT on a subject of steady interest to this blog: University student suicides. The excerpt in my title goes to one of the many conundrums specific to this heartbreaking thing: You want to honor the student, but you’re rightly scared of contagion if you speak too loudly.

‘Still, despite all the work underway, Wyoming was expected to finish out 2023 at or near the top in the nation for suicides.’

And that is for a really interesting reason: The vast majority of Wyomingites appear to be, looked at closely, pro-suicide.

I mean, think about it. You don’t get Wyoming’s astounding number of suicides year after year unless you’re practically advocating for it.

Here’s a local commentator:

Like most good ol’ boys, [Wyoming St. Sen.] Kolb hemmed and hawed and found an excuse to do nothing, even while kids in his community kill themselves… [Kolb says:] “As soon as we start dragging [suicide] down the emotional road, we’ve lost… ”

Kolb’s attitude about suicide — that we shouldn’t get emotional about it, that we don’t really need to take action — reflects the cold-hearted stubbornness that has kept Wyoming from dealing with [the state’s suicide] crisis in any real way… [A]s long as people running the state maintain the same harmful and lazy attitude that caused our state to become the worst in the nation for suicide in the first place, we won’t see anywhere near the progress we need against this issue that tears so many of Wyoming’s families and communities apart.

Don’t get all boohoo. Don’t take action. Guns are there to kill people, including yourself if you feel like it.

Cowboy nihilism is super-chic. The macho charisma of killing yourself with Marlboros, Wyoming Whiskey, and a Kahr CM9 Polymer 9mm.

The state’s most popular book.

Second highest rate of car crashes in America, even though no one lives there. Most guns per capita in the nation. One psychiatrist every whatever … every five thousand miles…

‘States with the weakest gun safety laws saw the rate of gun suicides jump 39% over the past two decades – from about 8 gun suicides for every 100,000 people in 1999 to nearly 12 in 2022… But in states with the strongest gun safety laws, gun suicide rates decreased slightly over that time — down from 3.6 to 3.4 gun suicides for every 100,000 people.’

Scroll down for the fantastic state by state graphic, which so dramatically gives Montana, Wyoming, and Alaska pride of place!

Good on ya, gunny states! You’ve got ’em dropping like flies.

Suicide in America

[T]he U.S. Supreme Court has been rolling back weapons restrictions, in effect turning the 2nd Amendment into a national suicide pact. Next month, the court will hear arguments in a case challenging a federal law barring a person under a domestic violence restraining order from possessing firearms. The case will concern the court’s bizarre dictate that no restriction is valid if it doesn’t have an 18th century precedent.

Domestic abusers are one of the few categories of people who experience tells us are more likely to commit gun violence. If we can no longer protect ourselves even from them, we will join the people of Lewiston, locked down in our homes, in fear of guns and the wide variety of our fellow Americans ready to use them against us.

“[Extremely high Wyoming suicide rates derive from] the relaxed attitude about having loaded guns in the household. So many people have loaded firearms that are not secured. Guns are the most lethal way of suicide; if a person has access to guns and is suicidal it is more likely they will complete suicide.”

Question: How do they relax in Wyoming?

Answer: By having lots of loaded guns loose around the house.

‘No other high-income country has suffered such a high death toll from gun violence. Every day, 120 Americans die at the end of a gun, including suicides and homicides, an average of 43,375 per year. According to the latest available analysis of data from 2015 to 2019, the US gun homicide rate was 26 times that of other high-income countries; its gun suicide rate was nearly 12 times higher. Mass shootings, defined as attacks in which at least four people are injured or killed excluding the shooter, have been on the rise since 2015, peaking at 686 incidents in 2021. There have been 476 mass shootings in the US in 2023 as of late August, and at the current pace, the US is set to eclipse the 2021 record this year.’

This spiel now has the status of the Nicene Creed – all adherents to America are learning it by heart.

‘At the second Mental Health Summit in Casper, [Senate President Ogden] Driskill bemoaned that [Wyoming] legislators created a Suicide Prevention Trust Fund but didn’t put any money in it. Wyoming has the nation’s highest suicide rate per capita… But Driskill balked at any solution that includes gun control. He admitted the number of suicides might drop if there were fewer guns, but insisted people who want to kill themselves will use other methods, like car wrecks. “Because the root of suicide isn’t the gun, that’s the tool they use,” he maintained. It’s not the gun? Come on. That argument ignores the fact that 86% of all gun deaths are suicides in Wyoming, while 10% are homicides… [And keep in mind that] nine out of 10 people who survive a suicide attempt don’t try to kill themselves later. Because firearms are so lethal, though, [nine in 10 don’t survive the firearm attempt].’

Give Wyomingites guns and they’ll kill themselves. Give them cars and …

Hell, why don’t your basic rodeo boy just kill himself by smashing his Chevy Suicido into a lightpole?

I’ll tell you why. First and most important when you use a Glock that ol gun will survive pulping your head fully intact, to be handed down to your suicidal son and his suicidal son ad infinifuckinitum. OTOH you’re definitely gonna total the truck. The truck’s goin down with you.

Secundum: It takes a whole lotta planning and a whole lotta luck to stage a successful trucko-da-fe. Maybe you’ll just go the paraplegic route. Maybe you’ll kill other people. The whole thing’s a big ol mess. At-home pulping, especially if you do it in the bathtub or shower, is neat and sweet and one hundred percent effective. State park pulping, a popular option among Wyoming’s rugged outdoorsmen, is even neater, and leaves you, as you expire, not with views of yourself careening agonizingly into a hard surface, but of calm majestic Tetons.

Thirdly: The whole public/private thing. The wreck’s gonna traumatize onlookers; and because it’s a news story it’ll make the local tv shows. Some guy popping his top at home is no news at all in Wyoming. Furthermore, beyond the extra expense your family will bear making you coffin-ready with your whole body pulverized vs. with just a little hole in your head, there’s the whole embarrassment on top of grief thing as the kinfolk deal with the community curiosity whipped up by the newspaper pix of your twisted truck/body.

‘In the neighboring province of Ryanggang, another official told Radio Free Asia that suicide was impacting the community more than starvation.’

More even than starvation!

The Dear Leader has now declared suicide illegal.

‘[In 2015, the Wyoming legislature gave] the University of Wyoming $8 million to improve its “athletic competitiveness.” The next year, scrambling to balance its budget and help pay for that gift to the sports department, lawmakers cut $2.1 million from the suicide prevention program.’

And, as this local points out, they’re still stiffing suicide prevention in the state which boasts by far the highest rate of self-slaughter.

The only thing baffling about the local’s commentary is his calling legislative indifference to rampant head-shooting-off in his state “baffling.” Nothing could be less baffling. Wyoming loves violence, and especially gun violence. Wyoming hates government. The two things that frighten Wyomingites the most are

  1. A losing season at UW footballl.
  2. Any form of government interference in anything any Wyomingite wants to do with a gun, up to and including his sovereign right to blast his fuckin head off with one. Got it? Now fuck off.
First in the nation in suicide – almost all of it by gun! Fourth in all categories of death by guns! Worst in the nation for drunk driving!

Sing the state song with me.

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In the far and mighty West,

Where the lonely drunk seeks rest,

There’s a Remington that fits him like a glove.

The bloody chest of this lost man

It’s where he took his one last stand

In Wyoming, dead and drunk, the State I love!

Wyoming, Wyoming!

See, this is why ol’ UD keeps calling Trump a suicide risk.

Trump’s [current] struggle is simple because he is simple: All he is is appetite – for fame, power, sex, admiration – shorn of any interior life and unencumbered by exterior attachments.

More here. And here. And here.

I mean. You know. Sing it.

She’s come undone
She didn’t know what she was headed for
And when I found what she was headed for
It was too late

Echt Wyoming Suicide

Our most suicidal state does it its way.

A Ford F-150 truck [drove] through the guardrail at Lookout Point on Casper Mountain.

… 43-year-old Lowell ‘Leroy’ Campbell was the individual who drove his vehicle through the metal barrier…

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Took a big bite out of that thing.

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Natrona County is a suicide epicenter even for Wyoming.



Picture: Nick Perkins, Town Square Media
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