Senator Looks to Help Others by Sharing His Experience with Suicide
> 5/8/2006 8:52:13 AM

Three years after his son’s suicide at 21, Senator Gordon H. Smith (R-Oregon) has published a book and co-sponsored Congressional legislation with the ultimate goal of helping to prevent such tragedy from striking at the lives of more young people and their families.

Remembering Garrett is both a loving celebration of Smith’s adopted son and a sobering account of the savage depression which ultimately led him to take his own life the day before he would have turned 22. Though Garrett struggled with dyslexia throughout school and fell into alcohol abuse in high school and college, his parents and friends were not aware of the seriousness of his condition until it reached levels of manic desperation. Garrett began a regiment of anti-depressants while attending Utah Valley State University, and, in the months before his death, friends and family began to recognize and address his symptoms with the help of mental health professionals.

The bill which Smith helped to push through Congress, composed of two previous bills and renamed the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, includes federally funded student screening programs designed to recognize early warning signs of depressive and suicidal tendencies, as well as funds designated to combat suicide at colleges. Though criticized by unnamed members of the House whose responses left Smith “appalled,” the measure passed through Congress with revisions. Senator Smith hopes that the book and legislative actions will serve as steps along a larger path which aims “to bring suicide's brutal toll and mental health's subordinate status out of the shadows” by further recognizing its symptoms and encouraging those affected to seek help.

American Association for Suicide Prevention

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