Last week, a dear friend of a dear friend was reported to have ended her life on Santa Cruz yard in Perryville prison. Over the weekend I learned a little about the kind of blessing this woman has been in the lives of her friends and fellow prisoners, and determined to do something special to help remember her by. As of yesterday morning the DOC still hadn't posted her death notice, and her record on line only showed that she was sent out to the hospital on 9/25. Sometimes the DOC is pretty slow on those, though, and I was pretty sure of my sources. So, first thing Monday morning I hit Central Office to build a memorial for her and the other women who have died from suicide or gross neglect under the Brewer/Ryan administration. There are quite a few, some whose names and stories I don't even know. Some stories I am all too familiar with, though, like that of the beloved Gloria Rogers, whose suffering I'll write about more in due time...
I returned home to process the photos from that action to find a shred of hope in a Facebook message, however: word from a friend of hers that she is apparently on life support, which explains the silence from the DOC. A hush has now fallen across the pages where she was being mourned, as all are now holding their breaths and saying their prayers for her recovery right now.
No one in this woman's life saw a suicide attempt coming, by the way - she had just been returned to prison in August, having relapsed since her parole last year. She had just done a decade behind bars, and was now looking a six more years in prison, away from her family, as was her partner in crime. But she was tough, and seemed like she could handle it. She was certainly plagued by her addictions, but those who contacted me about her didn't know of any serious mental health history that would suggest she was at risk for this. They felt completely blindsided, and devastated. Many successful suicides occur without clear warning, though.
Out of respect for her privacy and that of her family's, I'll defer naming this good soul until she recovers enough from this trauma to give her permission or tell her story herself - or until the DOC posts a death notice, if it turns out she passes away. Until then, those of you searching for what happened to your friend on Santa Cruz last week should just keep good thoughts in your hearts for her - she may yet be holding on. And be sure to take advantage of this time of uncertainty about her fate to tell those you love how much they mean to you - especially if they are struggling now, or in exile. You never know if you'll have the opportunity to do so tomorrow.
Finally, those of you who are struggling yourselves with thoughts of ending your life because you're in or are facing prison: chances are, there are people in your life who need you nonetheless - they need you to make it through this, or your death will haunt them forever. And there may be others down the road you can help if you can figure out how to survive your ordeal now. So, please don't take yourself out - study your rights, and become a thorn in the DOC's side instead. Whatever you do, don't do their dirty work for them.
I'm attaching the images from yesterday's memorial to this post - with apologies to the women from Perryville who received misinformation and probably had to clean up after me. I pray I never have cause to write that name on the sidewalk again. The Ghosts of Jan Brewer number far too many already...
If you need help dealing with your own mental health crisis or that of a loved one, THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE is a free, 24/7 service that can provide suicidal persons or those around them with support, information and local resources.