Health Care

Northfield home invasion victim urges troubled veterans find help

By Guy Page

The death by suicide of a Northfield home invader and military veteran Tuesday is a tragic illustration of Vermont’s problem with suicide in general and veteran suicide in particular. That problem, according to one law enforcement official, includes the lack of a law allowing the mentally ill to be held against their will. 

Tuesday night, David Young, 32, staying at a duplex in 45 Crescent Avenue in Northfield, without permission entered the adjoining home of Vermont Commissioner of Labor Michael Harrington. 

When a child answered the door, there was Young, carrying a knife and threatening the family. Harrington reportedly subdued and sat on Young until police arrived and took him into custody, according to media reports published today following Vermont Daily Chronicle’s news story yesterday. 

Young had no criminal record and was reportedly a veteran. Police tried to have him jailed, but a Washington County judge instead released him on conditions, Northfield Police Chief John Helfant reportedly said. Young was brought to Central Vermont Hospital and – per court order – released him a short time thereafter. He returned home and then shot himself to death. 

Harrington yesterday released a statement to media, saying he wished to “emphasize the importance of readily available mental health services for those in need, especially our nation’s veterans.” 

Vermont recently joined the 9-8-8 national suicide and crisis lifeline. According to the Vermont Health Dept. website, other resources include the Crisis Text Line — A live, trained crisis counselor receives the text and responds quickly. Text VT to 741741 There is also a Veterans Crisis Line — “Always available to talk or chat, both for crisis intervention and to support friends and loved ones. Call 1-800-273-8255 Press 1 or Text 838255 or Chat online.”

Chief Helfant urged the Legislature to do more. Vermont law at present only allows involuntary commitment after a lengthy court process and testimony of physicians. Attempts to streamline the process have been discussed but have gone nowhere, in part due to mental health advocates’ concerns that the process could be abused and civil rights infringed upon. 

“I understand the legislature’s desire to ensure individual rights and freedoms, but I also understand that people in mental health crisis sometimes definitely need help in the short term,” Helfant reportedly said.

Vermont’s overall suicide statistics are both up-to-date and frightening. Last year saw 142 suicides, by far the highest number in the 21st century. Through April of this year, 42 Vermonters had committed suicide – a number about 10% lower than last year’s rate, but exceeding almost any other previous year. Some experts blame pandemic isolation.

Statistics for Vermont veteran suicides predate the pandemic era. In 2019, Vermont saw 18 veteran suicides, 54% by gunfire. That qualified for one of the highest rates in the nation and about 50% higher than the national average. No statewide or national data on veteran suicide was found during a VDC online search today.

Vermont’s suicide rate – both general and veteran – is high, even though nationally suicide is highest among native Americans and Alaskans, of whom Vermont has relatively few. 

Categories: Health Care

5 replies »

  1. I stand and reiterate my earlier comment on the prior related story. Complete system failure. I will add there is blood on many hands who pretend to care and have no intention whatsoever to fix the broken system. Decades of this unnecessary suffering and lives destroyed so “they” can virtue signal and tell us we are in the wrong daily. God is watching it all.

  2. Just to clarify, Vermont law does indeed permit a person to be held in voluntarily in an emergency, based on a simple screening, without any court involvement. Under that involuntary hold a person can be held for a number of days prior to any sort of court involvement. However, sadly, in any situation an assessment can be made that someone is no longer at risk and they may be released. No one can read another persons mind, even if the screener is very qualified to make such an assessment. Heartbreaking, but not the fault of our laws or the professionals who are trying to help a person in crisis.

  3. there is no information about why he targeted this family other than they were next door. released at time or shortly thereafter he attempted assault with a weapon….HELLO judges; this as with many others need to be HELD until there is a hearing and it needs to be speedy……

  4. The aggressive action of Mr. Young sounds to me like it was a “cry for help”. He couldn’t even get the help he needed while in custody after this home invasion because of a knee-jerk reactive “let-em-out” judge who failed to recognize that this man needed psychological help. If held in criminal custody, he would not have had access to the instrument of his self-demise and could then be evaluated for his psychological needs. Detaining someone in a case like this is in the interest of BOTH public safety and in preventing self-harm. We owe this to those who are a danger to themselves or others, ESPECIALLY military veterans. Vermont lacks a comprehensive law for involuntary detention because of certain members of the Legislature who have strongly opposed it in the past (you know who you are…)

  5. there is help for our veterans, and he may have been getting help. the issue is the VA system moves like a turtle and many vets fall through the cracks. many have to petition and re-petition for disability benefits. does Northfield not have mobile mental health counselors who can come and deescalate a situation? did anyone even try? the vets kow what is available for them, getting access is the major issue. vets have been denied benefits for things such as: you haven’t had any confrontations where police were called to intervene, or, you have not had enough suicide attempts. It shouldn’t have to come to this. 22 vets kill themselves every day. we need to change this.
    the judge should have kept him in an involuntary hold for evaluation. since we have the catch and release system, he was never evaluated properly. never should have happened.