On Monday, Miranda Ellen Davison shot and killed herself on the steps of Juneau’s Dimond Courthouse.
The area was cordoned off by police, traffic was diverted, and spectators expressed the shock and remorse we’ve come to expect from tragedies like this. Alaska has the highest per-capita rate of suicide in the United States, and we shudder to think that events like these have become routine.
But they are routine. The course of events shows it. Within an hour of the woman’s death, the blood had been scrubbed from the brickwork in front of the courthouse. The caution tape had been taken down, and cars again were traveling Fourth Street. It wasn’t long before a pizza delivery wagon was parked not six feet from where she died.
After this newspaper wrote about the scene, one of our readers wrote us, saying she was angry how we had described the workers cleaning the sidewalk of blood.
Below is a slightly edited and abbreviated version of the email we sent in return:
In this case, we want you to be angry — not at the story, but at the actions that led to this poor woman’s fate. There is no reason anyone should feel so desperate that they feel that killing themselves is the only option.
We want you to be angry.
We want you to be angry that this woman felt she had no other option.
We want you to be angry that she didn’t get the help she needed.
We want you to be so angry that you (and everyone else who reads the story) puts down their newspaper, puts away their keyboard, and does something about it.
We want you to be angry, but we also want you to be informed in your anger. We’ll offer you the best information that we can as an event progresses and once it is over. That’s our job, and if you feel we’re not doing things correctly, never hesitate to write. We might not be able to answer all of your questions or concerns, but we’ll do our best. And that’s all we’d want anyone else to do.
If you are looking for help for yourself or others, please talk to someone. Call the Alaska CARELINE at 1-877-266-HELP, or visit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the Alaska Community Mental Health Centers, or juneausuicideprevention.org.