Mental Health Perspective: Judge Shelia Abdus-Salaam

 

 

In the past few weeks suicide has once again become a hot button topic as a few notable people have committed suicide. Yesterday, when news broke about Judge Abdus-Salaam’s body was found in the Hudson River from a possible suicide all hell broke loose. It appears the responses about her death are split between people accepting she may have committed suicide while others suspect foul play. Some of the statements I have been reading on Instagram about the Judge such as “Somebody killed her, why would a person in a powerful position kill herself?” “Of course THEY killed her.” “It’s foul play” point to the side she did not commit suicide. Since we do not have full details of her death at this time since they are still investigating we can not say if she was murder or not but let’s look at some recent facts about the Judge.

According to the New York Times, Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam’s mother committed suicide at the age of 92 in 2012 around Easter as well as her brother committed suicide by shooting himself in 2014 around the same of the year: Easter. According to The American Association of Suicidology and Harvard Health Publications, survivors of suicide are at an increased risk of thoughts, planning, or attempting suicide; she lost 2 family members to suicide.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NAMI), family history of suicide and mental or substance abuse disorder are among the most prevalent risk factors for suicide in the United States.  This was a tough time for the Judge as she is reminded since it is Easter weekend of the unfortunate losses she experienced a few years ago.

Let’s look at additional information about Judge Abdus-Saalm’s last final days. Judge Abdus-Saalm called her chambers and told them she was not feeling well and would not be in Tuesday, the day before she was found. When someone is committed to the idea of ending their life; they often isolate to get certain affairs in order as well as they don’t want anyone to stop them or anything to get in the way to make them change their mind. When she did not show up to court Wednesday, her assistant grew concerned and called her husband who then filed a missing person’s report. When she left her home, all she took with her was her Metro card; she left her keys and cell phone home which is not unusual for someone with a plan to end their life.  The Judge was feeling stressed about her caseloads at her job, her increased demand for public speaking, as well as not being able to spend much time with her husband. “What she shared with me is she had been under a lot of stress recently and that she was having trouble sleeping,” said Dr. Mobley, who saw her friend for breakfast in New York two weeks ago. “The truth is she was accomplished, resilient and strong, and she had a breaking point like everyone else. I fear it got there.” We know from countless studies stress is a major cause for depression which can led to suicide thoughts or attempts.

So exactly what are you saying Patrice? Since I am not an investigator on this case I cannot say with certainty our beloved pioneer of a woman Judge Abdus-Saalm was killed or committed suicide. I don’t believe suicide should be ruled out just because she was viewed as a strong woman in a powerful position because status and prestige does not eliminate emotional pain and stress which is what I believe we forget at times. The fact that she held people’s lives in her hands with decisions/rulings can be traumatizing and stressful which she did on a daily basis. The strongest of strongest people can be weak and we must take it into account to help our community decrease in numbers of suicide. Suicide does not have a face, it can be your mother, father, pastor, teacher, mayor, you name it. Suicide does not mean the person is weak, or does not have a stable life situation. As you have heard me say on my instagram page, most people who commit suicide don’t want to kill themselves, they want to kill the pain so before we judge someone let’s keep in mind what was going on in the inside and not what we saw on the outside.

 

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References:

http://www.newyorktimes.com

http://www.suicidology.org/resources/facts-statistics

http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/articles/relationship-suicide-risk-family-history-suicide-and-psychiatric-disorders

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