Death of Howland man raises concern

Posted Sept. 09, 2011, at 8:51 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 09, 2011, at 10:12 p.m.

HOWLAND, Maine — Maine police say a 52-year-old man decapitated himself by tying a cable around his neck and driving off in his pickup truck in Howland just days after another man was in the news for doing the same thing in Virginia.

Maine State Police said the man last Saturday tied the cable around his neck, attached the other end to a parked vehicle and accelerated. The tightened cable severed his head.

There were no witnesses and a nearby resident discovered what happened, according to information released Friday by Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine State Police.

Police are not identifying the man, who was going through a divorce.

Maine State Police assisted deputies from the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy at the scene Saturday declined to release information about the incident because it happened on private property.

“As a general rule, our office doesn’t release information about suicides out of concern for the possibility of copycat suicides and out of concern for the families,” Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross said Friday.” It’s a private matter.”

According to Maine Department of Health and Human Services spokesman John Martins, suicide is the second-leading cause of death in Maine for people ages 15 to 34.

“According to national data, there is an average of 35,000 reported suicides in the U.S. each year and a million globally each year,” said Martins. “That averages about to one every 15.2 minutes in the U.S.”

Four days before the Howland man’s death, a Chicago man decapitated himself in York, Va., by tying a cable around his neck, attaching the other end to a tree and driving off after having a quarrel with his ex-wife.

“It’s sadly ironic that these deaths occurred as we observe Suicide Prevention Week,” said Martins.

Shawn Yardley, Bangor’s director of health and community services, said there’s always a concern that anyone already in a suicidal state of mind might be influenced to commit a copycat suicide.

“There’s always that chance that people feeling desperate or living on the edge, and not having a plan, that when something presents itself in the media, then maybe they develop a plan. But the thing is when people get to that point of considering suicide, they likely have already thought of various means to end their own lives,” Yardley said. “Hopefully, the same people who may be influenced to commit suicide by a news account of one are also the same people who would be just as, if not more motivated to get help by calling someone after seeing a listing of services available by a responsible media source.”

Martins said there are several clues showing the risk of suicide for an individual. Those warning signs include thinking, writing or talking about suicide, excessive or increased substance abuse, talking about having no reason to live, agitation and-or insomnia, acting like they feel they have no way out, exhibiting an attitude of hopelessness, withdrawal from friends and family, uncontrolled rage and a desire for revenge, recklessness and risky acts, and dramatic mood changes.

Martins suggested several resources for anyone wrestling with depression or suicidal thoughts, or for anyone who knows someone exhibiting suicidal behavior.

Those include:

• The crisis hot line at 888-568-1112 or 911.

• The Maine Suicide Prevention Program website at www.maine.gov/suicide.

• The Maine Youth Suicide Prevention Program website at www.mainesuicideprevention.org.

• The Maine Office of Substance Abuse Information and Resources website at www.maine.gov/dhhs/osa/index.htm.

• The JD Foundation’s website at www.thejdfoundation.org.

• The Suicide Prevention Resource Center at www.sprc.org.

BDN writer Andrew Neff contributed to this report.

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