Santa Clarita Valley Suicides Prompt Discussion Of Mental Health Resources
Editor’s Note: The media, in general, does not report on suicides or details because studies have shown media coverage tends to increase “copycat” attempts. The details from the reports describing the cause or manner of death have been withheld as a result. We write this story only in an effort to raise awareness and dialogue about the resources available in our community. Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies responded to a second suspected public suicide in a 24-hour period Monday, the third in as many weeks. The No. 1 cause of suicide is untreated depression, according to suicide.org. In the Santa Clarita Valley, several organizations offer services for those who might be suffering from depression. Information regarding phone numbers and agencies to call for help are available at the bottom of this story.
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies responded to a suspected suicide at 4:30 p.m. Sunday in Newhall, officials said.
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Carlos Victor Hunt, 43, of Los Angeles, emailed a friend about his intention to kill himself.
When his friend received the email, he contacted Sheriff’s Station deputies, who found Hunt’s body on the side of the road at the 20900 block of Placerita Canyon Road, near Sierra Highway, in Santa Clarita.
Coroner’s officials performed an autopsy Sunday, and finding no obvious signs of trauma outside of the cause of death, the death was determined to be a suicide, said Lt. Fred Corral of the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office.
Less than 16 hours later, deputies and emergency personnel responded to another suspected suicide in public. This time, a man was found dead in front of his garage in Canyon Country. It was the second reported public suicide in as many days, and the third in as many weeks.
Three suspected SCV suicide cases in three weeks
In the third case, in Valencia, Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies were called to a warehouse Aug. 14, when a co-worker found a man -- whose identity has yet to be released pending next-of-kin notification -- bleeding profusely on the floor of a bathroom.
Investigators with the Coroner’s Office conducted an autopsy Sunday, but the official cause of death has been deferred pending toxicology results.
The man had a history of abusing prescription drugs, which was why detectives were waiting to make the determination, officials said.
“It came in as a ‘suicide vs. homicide,’” Corral said, meaning it wasn’t possible to make a definitive determination on the nature of the death.
“He was (examined Sunday), so we’re going to be waiting at least eight to 10 weeks for results,” he said.
Because the man died at a local hospital, the man’s attending physician would make the final determination on the nature of death as far as suicide or homicide, Corral added.
Mental health issues part of a growing concern
The No. 1 cause of suicides is untreated depression, according to Kevin Caruso, executive director of Suicide.org.
Men are four times as likely as women to commit suicide, officials said. The Centers for Disease Control’s most recent figures are from 2011, and were released in June.
Past KHTS reports quote Santa Clarita Valley officials as estimating the number of suspected suicides officials respond to locally at about two per month.
“It’s really become more and more of a challenge, certainly for law enforcement, but for all of society,” said Commander Mike Parker of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, discussing how mental health issues are a growing public safety concern for officials.
“There are a lot of resources out there,” Parker said in a previous interview before the reported incidents.
He also mentioned the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is a 24-hour number, and various county resources.
“We really need to work better, as members of the public, with our elected officials, with civic leaders and with law enforcement,” Parker said, “to find better solutions than ultimately becoming a law enforcement problem.”
In the Santa Clarita Valley, there are several agencies with help available to those interested.
"People don't kill themselves or try to because they really want to die, they just want to stop the pain they've been suffering," according to Cary Quashen, an expert on suicide and its prevention, in a previous interview with KHTS AM-1220.
Quashen is a founder of Action and executive director of the Behavioral Health Unit at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, which is a 23-bed acute psychiatric facility open 24 hours a day.
"(Suicidal patients) feel that everything around them is falling apart,” Quashen said. “Emotionally, spiritually, physically, you name it — and they just see no way out."
In addition to the local hospital, there are also social work organizations that provide counseling or direction to those who might be in need of counseling.
Santa Clarita Valley resources for counseling and mental health
The Santa Clarita Valley Youth Project is one of several SCV resources available for those seeking help, offering services and help for the K-12 students and families within the Santa Clarita Valley.
The organization created a partnership with public schools and offers peer counseling. Its goal is “to provide a safe, nurturing environment where teens and families are strengthened, empowered and equipped with the tools they need to live successful and fulfilling lives,” according to the organization’s website.
“Upon contacting (the center), a determination is made if the child is in imminent danger to harm himself or others, in which case they are seen immediately,” according to the Child & Family Center’s website. “Those interested in mental health services and/or groups are given a phone screening by a case manager to determine the child’s presenting symptoms and their severity.”
Action also offers inpateint and outpatient care for those trying to deal with a variety of mental health concerns. The organization also works with the city of Santa Clarita and the Sheriff’s Department in the Santa Clarita Valley.
“I’ve seen statistics that say more people are taking their own life than are killed in traffic collisions, which is a huge number,” Parker said, during a recent interview on “Neighborhood Watch,” a KHTS AM-1220 radio show featuring various law enforcement officials.
But it’s not just Santa Clarita Valley or Los Angeles County issue, it’s a national concern, according to the CDC.
“U.S. national suicide deaths rose slightly for the fifth year in a row from 12.1 per 100,000 in 2010 to 12.3 per 100,000 in 2011,” according to CDC data available on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website.
“We deal with a lot of people with mental health issues,” Parker said, “and I’ll tell you flat out -- there are not enough resources out there to deal with this, and it’s fallen to law enforcement. That is not a compliment to society.”
Here are several links to websites and contact information regarding suicide and mental health resources:
There are 24-hour numbers available. In the event of an emergency, 911 should always be the first call. Those looking to speak with someone can call 1-800-273-8255, for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline; 1-800-854-7771, for The Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health; and 1-800-784-2433, for The Treatment Advocacy Center. You can contact the SCV Child & Family Center at 661-259-9439. The phone number for the Santa Clarita Valley Youth Project is 661-257-9688.
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