APD on scene town center Wednesday 7:30 AM
If two murders occurred in Amherst last week not only would you have been instantly made aware, but you would probably still be whispering about it now. Yet when death is self inflicted, the silence is as stunning as the desperate act itself.
Early Wednesday morning Amherst police responded to a rooming house in town center for a drug overdose victim who obviously changed his mind. Because he used a cell phone to call 911, that cry for help went to a Northampton call center first and was then was transferred to Amherst Dispatch.
By the time a patrol officer arrived on scene it was an "unattended death."
According to the Mass Department of Public Health there were 624 "completed suicides" in 2012 and 6,729 Emergency Room visits for "self inflicted" wounds that did not result in death.
In 2011 suicides accounted for 588 deaths while Massachusetts had a total of 202 murders -- almost three times fewer than suicides -- many of which you probably saw reported by the mainstream media.
Late Friday night, about an hour before the official start of Valentine's Day, police were called to a Mill Street apartment by a frightened Reporting Party stating she just discovered her roommate hanging. Yet another "unattended death."
That makes two unfortunate incidents in less than 72 hours.
The national average for suicide in 2012 was 12.5/100,000 population, while Massachusetts's came in lower than average at 8.6 per 100,000. Thus with Amherst's population of 38,000 we should see roughly three suicides per year.
If you know someone with all of the above, get them help. Now.
The police department always refers questions to the District Attorney's office since the DA has jurisdiction over all "unattended deaths." But when I asked about these two regrettable incidents I was told by Northwestern District Attorney Dave Sullivan's Communications Director Mary Carey, "We don't release information or comment on suicides."
If pushed I'm sure they would issue a vague official statement saying there is no cause for public alarm over the two deaths as they are not considered "suspicious."
But the preferred method seems to be for everybody to just keep completely silent so the public is never even aware these deaths happened in the first place, and therefor could not become alarmed.
Last year I was the first to publish Eric Sinacori's cause of death being "acute heroin intoxication," and caught a lot of grief for doing so: Invasion of privacy, increasing trauma to the family, and for raining on UMass parade by publishing it on graduation day -- the same day I first acquired the death certificate from the Amherst Town Clerk.
Now of course that sad incident has led to a change in policy at UMass Amherst concerning the use of student informants by UMPD to investigate drug dealers higher up the ladder (a policy change I do not agree with).
Over the past few years at least two UMass students used chemical car bombs to end their life, a method that endangers first responders or anyone who accidently comes into contact with the death vehicle.
The more people know about the warning signs of suicide the better. And knowing that it can and does happen here in our bucolic little college town, may just make EVERYONE pay closer attention.