I had several interesting comments posted on my Facebook Fan page in reference to the story below about suicides in National Parks.
Do you think they were all definitely suicides? Unless there was a note left, I would wonder that maybe they missed their footing or maybe had vision problems.
Response: A human death is not classified or declared a suicide until a full and thorough investigation is conducted. Initially any suspicious death is looked at from every angle including a possible murder. In today's world of technology many suicidal persons do not leave notes. They at times leave text and voice mail messages or call a family member or friend to threaten suicide. Family members, counselors, doctors, and co workers are often interviewed as part of the investigation to determine and verify the mind set of the victim. Forensic evidence is also collected from the victim and scene for examination. The medical examiner also has to make the final determination as to cause of death. It was also my experience that for most of the suicides I investigated it was not the person's first attempt. So there are many levels of determination and decision made before a death is declared a suicide.
Come on there has to be some better news for Facebook. How many fall in love in the parks?
Response: There are always positive experiences to be had in our National Parks. Many people do not realize that there are also tragic incidents such as these that not only affect the victims and their families, but the park employees that are involved in the response, rescue efforts, and investigations.
Andy Lankford (Author of Ranger Confidential) Interesting story Bruce. Regarding the author's suggestions at the end...1. Don't think barricading either of those parks is an option 2. Rangers already do a good job of stopping suicides but more training in this area would not hurt. During my younger days, I think I stopped a suicide once when I arrested a man with a gun along the roadside but I did not comprehend that was what I had done until years later.
Response: Andy is right, park rangers are often unable to fully evaluate the impact that they have on peoples' lives. I believe the vast majority of them are positive some times saving and at other times altering a life.
Unfortunately, investigating suicides is just another part of A Park Ranger's Life.