Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


There's always an alternative

Posted 11/24/15 (Tue)

We have exchanges with other newspapers around North Dakota and Glen Froseth makes sure he puts my hometown newspaper, the Emmons County Record on my desk each week.

I was really shocked in a recent edition to find the obituary for Kelly Scherr, 48, Strasburg, because in another part of that edition, it stated he died by suicide.

I didn’t know Kelly Scherr, but I do know that he was a successful businessman, had three teenage children and was a welder by trade.

Scherr purchased Schmaltz Meats in Linton sometime ago and took the fledgling business and made it profitable and popular.

So what would lead a successful community member to do something like this?

About three months ago, I read the obituary for Adam Flegel, 31, of Bismarck, who also committed suicide.

Adam grew up in Hazelton and in 2007 while I was stationed away in military service, his high school sister, Elizabeth, committed suicide.

Something like this is always difficult to write about, talk about or even think about.

People who seem perfectly fine one minute are gone the next without leaving any clues whatsoever.

Our first thought is how anyone could be that selfish that they would do this to their family and friends. Perhaps without thinking about their families, they commit this tragedy because they may be in trouble or recently had a huge argument with a loved one.

In some cases, a person’s health is deteriorating rapidly and there is no way to come out of it so they commit suicide, as in terminal cancer or Parkinson’s disease or something like it.

When Soldiers started coming home from Iraq in 2003, the sucicide rate skyrocketed.

There were a number of suicides in the North Dakota National Guard and it got to a point that the leadership decided we would all go to an annual seminar about suicide, learn its warning signs and maybe how to stop it.

The problem is, most of us don’t see that red flag, as in the case of Kelly Scherr. The Emmons County Record reported that just as the shop was opening, he went to a location where employees wouldn’t be located and killed himself.

If there is a warning sign, the National Guard has taught us to intervene rather than looking away, not saying anything and hoping those thoughts will pass.

Question the person, question them again, talk to them about something, anything, that would help them get their mind off a tragic act.

Since I came home from active duty in 2007, I’ve gone to a VA clinic twice a year for check ups and every time I go there, I am always asked by a nurse if I have thoughts of hurting myself.

If I call the VA hospital in Fargo, one of the first things they say to me is, if I’m thinking about hurting myself,  there is someone at the VA who will talk to me about it.

But those outside the military don’t have that resourse, don’t have that perceived intervention.

My guess is in a lot of cases, the person thinks the world doesn’t care about them and rather than planting that red flag, nothing is said until it is too late, then we are all left guessing.

We all face problems and sometimes we get in over our heads. We end up in serious financial difficulty, we go through a bitter divorce, we engage with gangs and can’t escape, we didn’t get a job we wanted and “I’m going to show them,” there could be serious medical issues or some have been known to commit suicide to avoid military participation.

There are a lot of reasons that can trigger a person to commit this act. One of them is mental illness, something the military didn’t teach us in those seminars.

Earlier I mentioned Adam and Elizabeth Flegel and it was in 1989 that their aunt Janice Holzer committed suicide, leaving us to believe there may be a mental illness in that extended family.

But again, with confidentiality rules, none of us on the street would know that, thus we wouldn’t be looking for those signs.

Regardless of how bad things are, there is always an alternative. Say it with me, there is always an alternative.

Friends and neighbors will always help. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help.

If you don’t want to talk to your friends or neighbors, talk to a pastor or priest, a teacher, or law enforcment.  They will listen and get the help that is needed.

No matter how bad it gets, there’s always an alternative for all of us.