While we all understand Brooks Patterson was just making a bad joke when he suggested Bob Ficano should consider suicide. His timing could not have been worse. The Oakland County Board of Commissioners had declared May 2012 as “Mental Health Month” to shed light on the fact that suicide is a major public health issue that is preventable.
More people die by suicide each year in the United States than by homicide and suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents aged 15 to 24. We see stories on TV every day about young people who have been pushed to suicide as a result of harassment and inadequate support systems. These issues are of particular concern to the LGBT community where young and old alike suffer disproportionately from bullying, discrimination and isolation which can lead to suicide. And unfortunately, teenage suicide has been so prevalent in Oakland County this past year to warrant a new County wide public health initiative to prevent teenage suicide.
This is why it was important for Mr. Patterson to show some leadership and apologize for his actions. Many organizations in Oakland County have been working very hard to address this public health issue and the tone and tenor of this substantial effort has to be set at the top. As a licensed social worker who has intervened with families after a suicide, I know that suicide is not a laughing matter!
Helaine Zack, LMSW
Oakland County Commissioner, District 22