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