Worth Repeating: Clients Who Threaten Suicide—and Our Responsibilities
Editor’s Note: Judith Kuster did an excellent session just this topic at ASHA in Chicago this past week. I found her article for the Leader online to share with you on this important subject.
by Judith Maginnis Kuster
There are historical references to suicide or suicidal ideation in persons with communication disorders- Beethoven, who was 28 and living with a severe hearing loss, contemplated suicide; Freud, who was suffering with repeated and extensive surgeries associated with oral cancer, begged for physician-assisted suicide. He died of a morphine overdose, which may have been an attempt to relieve pain or may have been an assisted suicide. Even in our field, Charles Van Riper thought of suicide “and tried it once.”
Ten people with communication disorders have reported suicide ideation to me, one as young as 6, another 11, six in their teens or early 20s, and two adults. Fortunately, none of them followed through on suicide, but others do. Recently, a 17-year-old who stuttered took his own life (Uncle Brett Hart’s “James Campbell Stuttering Memorial,” www.stutteringhelp.org/content/james-campbell-stuttering-memorial) . Not long ago, another young man who stuttered- in a graduate program to become a speech-language pathologist-committed suicide (“Thanks for the Memories“).
Several years ago, “in Orange County, California, a young teen killed two neighbors before committing suicide…An update on the young man who committed the crimes…stated that he suffered from Asperger’s syndrome” (Bonnie Sayer’s “Suicide among Asperger Teens“).
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