Suicide a reminder that help is available
September 23, 2011
Many in the Aspen community are mourning the loss of well-liked and well-known local restaurateur Billy Rieger.
Rieger, a founder and co-owner of Kenichi sushi restaurant, apparently took his own life earlier this week. Aspen Police found his body Tuesday night during a welfare check prompted by friends who were concerned when they had not heard from him or could not reach him. A Pitkin County Coroner’s Office report states that he committed suicide by hanging in his apartment. He was 50.
The death of loved ones is always tough, but suicide is an especially touchy subject. Some believe that the media should rarely, if ever, report on such incidents, out of fear over “suicide contagion” – the belief that the reporting does more harm than good by encouraging vulnerable individuals to imitate the act. In the case of Rieger, a friend of The Aspen Times, the newspaper would have been remiss not to explain the circumstances surrounding his death. Community concern over his passing can be transformed into an important lesson about how to handle despondency.
The lyrics to the famous theme song from the hit TV series MASH are inaccurate; suicide is not painless. There’s often a great deal of agony involved, mentally and physically, for those who commit the act. And it’s a tragic affair that can bring an insurmountable amount of grief to those who know the person who died of his own hand.
Coincidentally, September is Suicide Prevention Month. The Aspen Valley Medical Foundation, through its Aspen Hope Center, has information that can help prevent suicides. It provides training that can help businesses and organizations spot the warning signs of those who may be depressed and contemplating the act. Call (970) 544-1241 for details about a seminar set for Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in the Rio Grande Meeting Room near the Pitkin County Courthouse.
The following resources are just a few of the readily available information centers for those seeking help, either for themselves or their loved ones:
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• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, (800) 273-8255.
• American Association of Suicidology, http://www.suicideology.org, (202) 237-2280.
• National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, (703) 524-7600.
• Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association, (312) 642-0049.
• National Mental Health Association, (703) 684-7722.
As the American Association of Suicidology points out, suicidal thinking is usually associated with problems that can be treated. Clinical depression, anxiety disorders, chemical dependency and other disorders produce profound emotional distress. But studies show that the vast majority of people who receive appropriate treatment improve or recover completely. “Suicidal crises are almost always temporary,” the association says.
We will miss and mourn the loss of Billy Rieger, but his death need not be in vain. Helping to stop someone else from a self-inflicted end, or getting help for yourself, would serve to further honor his already considerable and positive legacy.