Reporter Documents Southwest Florida Suicides

A searing Sunday front-page investigation.

Over the weekend, Fort Myers News-Press health reporter Frank Gluck shared a devastating front-page look at suicide.

Gluck leads with the case of a man who took his life in 2007. At the time, the perpetrator’s daughter was four years old:

“I was really just traumatized by the whole situation,” said Morgan, who is now 12 and, after years of counseling, can speak thoughtfully about her father’s death. “When I started going to therapy, it really helped me to kind of calm down and go back to normal.”

… The youngest person in Southwest Florida to die from suicide in the last decade was 12 years old, though C.A.R.E.S. Prevention is aware of a five-year-old who attempted to do so, [Morgan’s mother Mandie] Rainwater said. The oldest was 100, medical examiner’s records show.

In the Sunday article, Gluck goes on to detail the circumstances of several other suicides, speaking with Dawn Powers, a Cape Coral woman who lost her husband in 2011, and Tiffany Sweeney, an Estero mother of five whose husband killed himself in 2014. Per Gluck, the suicide rate in Southwest Florida generally ranks well above the national U.S. average and in 2014, more people killed themselves in Lee and Collier counties (182) than the combined total of homicide victims (39) and motor vehicle crash fatalities (125).

In a related article today, Gluck surveys some of the local groups that try to help those whose life is shattered by a friend or family member’s suicide:

Brianna Wagner started the non-profit Happy Turtle Foundation following the suicide of her 15-year-old son, Christian, in July.

Christian, who would now be a sophomore at Cape Coral High School, had been diagnosed at an early age with a bipolar disorder, she said. The group, now largely a Facebook discussion group, was named for Christian’s love of turtles, she said.

In next Sunday’s paper, Gluck will summarize a panel discussion, organized by the paper, that will have brought together various issue stakeholders. A fitting follow-up to this very powerful bit of fully invested reporting, which includes a two-minuted video interview with Morgan.