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Letters to the Editor: December 17, 2014 

'A frightening article'; an earnest thank-you; a fond farewell; a stern suggestion

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Solitary Man

I just finished your article "Down in the Hole"(Dec. 10). I saw the Bohemian in a free paper dispenser. This is not my usual conduit for news content consumption, but I was intrigued by the art and the Tom Waits song reference. Without opening the paper, my wife and I began speculating on what the article was referring to with the caption: "North Bay Isolation Cells from the Inside Out." Her final bet was on "some sort of sex thing," and mine was on "the Microsoft Store."

What a well-written and thoroughly frightening article! Your personal experience and lack of shrill tone makes your article flatly convincing. The complexities and nuances of suicidal musings is a topic I have not contemplated on a conscious level much, and I don't plan on doing it in front of a cop any time soon, that's for dammed sure. I had no idea this type of thing was as widespread as you indicate.

I am 60 now, and used to work as a part-time tech in psych-units in California in the late '70s, before Reagan gutted the budget for mental health. What you describe sounds like the classic 5150. Back then, heavy medication was more prevalent than isolation. Isolation was relatively rare, and was reserved for violent situations in the units I worked at in San Francisco (St. Mary's and Mt. Zion). The penal system had not yet merged with the psych-medical system yet. This sounds like a very bad marriage. I had no idea that suicide questions have become a pop quiz during a routine pullover for a possible DUI.

Q: Have you ever had thoughts about killing yourself?

A: Not until you pulled me over.

Why is the jack-booted thug frowning? These guys tend to have a zero tolerance for humor, but mumbling about depression and suicide is a giant red flag in almost any social context. If a friend or family member does it, pay attention. It's not exactly Darwin Award level, buts it's inappropriate behavior, to say the least. It definitely should not be the job of the sheriff's office to plant the idea in a person's head.

On a side note, Robin Williams was staring down the barrel of some very serious medical issues unrelated to clinical depression. Suicide might have been more of an informed decision than the press is willing to discuss. Thanks for an excellent and illuminating article.

San Anselmo

Abrupt Ending

We, the clinical mental health staff of the Community Family Service Agency, would like to take this opportunity to address the Sonoma County communities whom the Family Service Agency has served for over 50 years.

On Dec. 2, 2014, we were informed by the administration that the counseling department would be closed in slightly over two weeks, on Dec. 19. We received this news with great sadness and concern for the continuity of care for the people with whom we have worked so closely over several decades, as well as the staff itself. We apologize to our clients for this abrupt ending. Unfortunately, we were not consulted regarding the clinical concerns involved in ending services. Our staff is dedicated to finding immediate services for all of our current clients.

Our nonprofit clinic has provided low-cost mental-health services for over 50 years. We have served children, teens, adults, seniors, couples and families, and have provided a number of court-mandated services to Sonoma County. We have provided counseling in the schools, women's shelters and in the Sonoma County Jail.

We have had a highly reputable program for training interns to become licensed as clinical psychologists, marriage and family therapists, and licensed clinical social workers. Many of our alumni serve the Sonoma County community in multiple capacities.

We want to thank the community for embracing us all these years and giving us the opportunity to serve our clients in their time of need. We also want to thank our alumni interns, former supervisors and staff, and donors for all they have given and express our gratitude to all who have been on this journey.

Santa Rosa

Called Home

I was reading a story in your paper from many years ago about my grandmother, Chicki Downs ("The Breast Laid Plans," Aug. 22, 2002). The story was written by Allie Gottlieb. I just wanted to see if you could pass along a thank you to Allie for a beautiful story, and to let her know Chicki went home to the Lord today. It was peaceful, and she was ready to go. She has missed my grandfather dearly for many years and has been waiting, with longing in her heart, for the day that the Lord called her home to be with Grandpa Barney.

Castle Rock, Colo.

Take It to Sacramento

Wall Street vs. California schools budget ("Teachable Moment," Dec. 10). Confused by the comparison. The governor has a $6 billion surplus; March in Sacramento first. Stop focusing on observers and start negotiating the salaries, since the contract isn't even up yet. You'd get 2.5 percent now and likely another 2.5 percent in June if you'd get to the table. You're harming yourselves over principle (right or wrong).


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