After losing bitter custody battle, lesbian mother Debie Hackett of Dallas takes her own life

Debie Hackett with her son, from her Facebook page

Another suicide in the LGBT community this week showed that bullying isn’t the only reason people take their own lives.

Last July, I wrote about Debie Hackett, who was fighting with her former partner for visitation rights with their son. An appeals court gave her the right to assert her parental rights and sue for visitation and the case was remanded to the lower court. When I spoke to her, she was hopeful that she would be able to see her son soon.

This month she lost her case.

Despondent, Hackett took her own life on Christmas Eve.

Could interpretation of laws to discount a same-sex relationship be the underlying cause of this needless death?

A friend of Hackett’s sent me an e-mail to let me know what had happened and asked that as a tribute I post suicide-prevention information.

Local counselor Candy Marcum said that, surprisingly, December is not necessarily the worst month for suicide. In Hackett’s case, the loss in court combined with loneliness on the holiday must have been too much for her.

Grieving friends and family can only wonder if there was something more they could have done. Marcum said the warning signs are not always apparent and counsels those grieving not to blame themselves.

Ann Haas of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention specializes in prevention in the LGBT community. In a November article, she listed a number of warning signs for suicide. To read them, go here.

—  David Taffet

Know suicide’s warning signs

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Ann Haas
Ann Haas

In the recent rash of well-publicized LGBT teen suicides, bullying was identified as the cause. But experts note there are a variety of issues and circumstances that can lead to depression and possibly suicidal behavior among LGBT people. Things like being outed and family issues relating to coming out, an HIV-positive diagnosis, a DWI charge, being caught cruising in a park or some other humiliating experience, losing a job or other money problems.

And while the number of suicides among young people has been in the national spotlight lately, almost twice as many suicides occur in the 45-to-54 age group, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The highest suicide rate in the country is among elderly white males.

Many who commit or attempt suicide have a psychiatric illness that can be diagnosed and treated. Often there are warning signs that family and friends can spot.
“Any child subjected to persistent bullying is at risk for depression,” said AFSP Director of Prevention Projects Ann Haas.

The signs of depression include loss of interest in usual activities and changes in weight, appetite or sleep patterns.

She said when someone is talking about suicide or suggesting a desire for death, it should be treated as an emergency situation. Young people, she said, often express that in poetry and it should be taken seriously. Other signs of a decision to commit suicide are someone getting their affairs in order, giving away possessions and saying goodbye to friends and family.

“Someone who is outgoing who begins to be withdrawn — that can be a tip off that something’s going on,” Haas said.

If a teen’s academic performance begins to slack off, that often suggests depression, she said.

Look for any marked behavioral changes that last a couple of weeks, Haas said.

“When people who are quiet become gregarious, it could be a sign of bipolar illness,” she said.

In younger people, that’s often overlooked as a good sign that someone is coming out of a shell. But if that gregariousness is accompanied by lack of sleep and excessive energy, developing into manic behavior, it is a sign of bipolar disorder, which can lead to suicide if it is left untreated.

Haas said it’s difficult talking about mental health issues in the LGBT community because for so many years gay people were branded as mentally ill.

Local professional counselor Candy Marcum of Stonewall Behavioral Health said that warning signs are not always apparent.

And while friends and family should know warning signs, she said, “If we’re assigning blame, it belongs on the person who did it.”

“Almost everyone has thought about it,” Marcum said. But not everyone looks for ways to do it.

Some save pills or get a gun. Others are on the Internet looking at sites that graphically describe ways to commit suicide.

Marcum said to look for signs of hopelessness and helplessness. Commonly heard phrases that indicate self-loathing include talk of “no way out,” “I don’t know how I’ll ever get out of this,” “I’m worthless” or “You’d be better off without me.”

She said it was better to talk to a loved one showing troubled behavior than to ignore it and hope things will get better.

“Seeing you like this worries me,” she said is a way to approach someone you are concerned about. “Go talk to someone.”

Because the depression or erratic behavior suddenly stops, don’t assume everything is suddenly OK. That person may seem calm; friends think the person is better. And then they commit suicide. “When you make the decision, you’re very calm,” Marcum said.

Offer to make an appointment for the person and go with him for a first visit. Marcum suggested speaking to the counselor on the phone ahead of time to make sure they are comfortable and experienced with LGBT-related issues.

Marcum said that counselors in the LGBT community have no agenda other than to help someone heal. She said that some people are afraid that her goal is to help someone come out.

“We just want you to be OK,” she said. “We want you to get to the end of the book. We’re curious how the story will turn out and not interested in writing anyone’s story.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 12, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

See the new Harry Potter movie early, support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

OK, how many Harry Potter fans do we have out there? And how many of you are chomping at the bit to see the new movie, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1″?

It comes out at midnight on Thursday, Nov. 18, but here in the Metroplex, you have a chance to see the movie four hours early and at the same time contribute to a good cause: The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

I think it is a fitting fundraiser, considering the commitment that the film’s star, Daniel Radcliffe, has made to The Trevor Project and the many times Radcliffe has spoken out for LGBT rights.

The screening will be held at the Rave Theatre in Northeast Mall in Hurst. Tickets are $16 each and are available online at MugglesForLife.webs.com.

—  admin

Remembering a friend and helping others

Friends of woman who committed suicide holding 2nd benefit for Foundation for Prevention of Suicide


Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

HAPPIER TIMES  |  Shauna Greaham seemed like ‘the perfect person’ to her friends, but in reality, she struggled throughout her adult life with depression. This weekend, her friends are holding an event in her memory to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
HAPPIER TIMES | Shauna Greaham seemed like ‘the perfect person’ to her friends, but in reality, she struggled throughout her adult life with depression. This weekend, her friends are holding an event in her memory to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Kinita Albertson first met Shauna Greaham in high school, when the two played softball for opposing teams. Then the two women met again, this time as teammates, when they both played college softball for Texas Weslyan University.

Greaham was, Albertson said, “the perfect person, so amazing.”

But it only seemed that way.

Greaham committed suicide on Oct. 13, 2008.

Albertson said Greaham struggled with periodic bouts of depression throughout her adult life. Although Albertson said she never knew of her friend being bullied or harassed over being gay, Greaham wasn’t comfortable with her sexual orientation, either.

“When we were in college, she was embarrassed to be gay. She never talked about it or admitted it,” Albertson said. “Even after college, I would see her at the games [for the lesbian softball league], and she would say, ‘Oh, I’m just playing for the gay league because they needed more players.’”

Still, Greaham’s friends never expected her to take her own life.

“She had a girlfriend, but they were breaking up,” Albertson said, recalling the days leading up to her friend’s death. “We knew Shauna was upset and depressed, so we went over that weekend to spend some time with her. She seemed to be okay. Yes, she was upset, but by the time we left, she seemed okay. She was laughing and having a good time with everybody.

“And then, she was just gone,” Albertson continued. “Nobody really knows what happened. Something just snapped, and she was gone.”
And her friends were left with grief and questions.

“I had all the questions and nowhere to find answers. Even on the Internet, I had trouble finding any information. I had to dig. I was just grasping at straws as to why this happened,” Albertson said.

And then she found the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and finally found some of the answers she was seeking.

“I found AFSP online, and I called and asked for information. They really did help,” Albertson said.

One of the things she learned, Albertson said, was not to give in to some of the common misperceptions about suicide.

“A lot of times, when someone commits suicide, people say that they just gave up, that they quit trying. It’s a lot more complicated than that. There aren’t such easy answers,” Albertson said. “That’s one thing I don’t want people to think about Shauna. She was an amazing person, and I don’t want anybody to think of her as a quitter.”

AFSP is a nonprofit organization “exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide,” according to its website.

The agency works to meet its goals by funding scientific research, offering education programs for mental health professionals, working to educate the public about mood disorders and suicide prevention, promoting policies and legislation aimed at preventing suicide and offering programs and resources for those who have lost loved ones to suicide and those who are themselves at risk for suicide.

The organization also has a specific LGBTQ Initiative and in 2007 helped sponsor, in conjunction with the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, a conference on LGBTQ suicide. AFSP has since funded several grants related to the issue of LGBTQ teen suicide and is currently working to complete a review of research and recommendations on LGBTQ suicide and suicide risk, according to the website.

The organization is also actively involved in studying and publicizing the link between anti-LGBT bullying and suicide.

But all those efforts take money. That’s why Albertson and her friends this weekend will hold their second annual “Strides for Shauna” benefit show and date auction.

Casey Cohea, who is helping organize the benefit, said eight people have already committed to being “auctioned off” for dates, and she expects others to join the list by the time the event starts Saturday night, Oct. 16.

The event will also feature a performance by Nikki McKibben who was the third place finisher in the debut season of American Idol.

McKibben isn’t one the dates who will be auctioned, Cohea noted, “she will just be there to sing. We told her what we were doing, and she wanted to help.”

The show and auction starts at 8:30 p.m. Saturday night at Best Friends Club, 2620 E. Lancaster Ave. in Fort Worth. And anyone interested in volunteering for the auction can contact Cohea at pinkertc15@yahoo.com or Albertson at Kinita.albertson@gmail.com.

But even those who can’t attend can still contribute by going online to OutOfTheDar-kness.com and donating to Team Strides for Shauna.

“I didn’t know Shauna. I’m doing this because people that I know and love knew and loved Shauna and this is important to them,” Cohea said.

“But I am also doing it because this is something that affects so many people in our community. We are losing so many people to suicide, and we have to do something to help.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 15, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

American Idol contestant Nikki McKibbin at suicide prevention benefit at Best Friends

Nikki McKibbin, the North Texan who finished third in the debut season of American Idol, will be the featured guest at “Strides for Shauna,” a show and date auction set for Saturday, Oct. 16, at 8:30 p.m. at Best Friends, 2620 E. Lancaster Ave., in Fort Worth.

This second annual show, held in memory of Shauna Greaham who died Oct. 13, 2008 of suicide, will benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

In addition to the show and the date auctions, the event will include a 50/50 raffle.

Anybody interested in being auctioned off as a date can e-mail Casey Cohea at pinkertc15@yahoo.com or Kinita Albertson at kinita.albertson@gmail.com.

Wacth the Oct. 15 issue of Dallas Voice for more information about the show and about Shauna.

If you can’t attend but would still like to donate to the cause, go to OutOfTheDarkness.org, team name Strides for Shauna.

—  admin