After losing their daughter to suicide, Kathleen and Eric Dunckel are ready to share their story. They hope to help others recognize the warning signs and be there for friends and loved ones who may be having similar problems.
It is the National Week of Prevention of the Administration of Mental Health Services and Substance Abuse. The Dunckels ’daughter Abigail’s birthday would have been last week on May 6, so presenting them now made sense to them. Today is National Suicide Prevention Day and May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
Abigail fought substance abuse and bipolar disorder, the Dunckels said.
“I had more problems than even mental health,” Kathleen Dunckel said of her daughter. “It was substance abuse, bipolar, so it hit a number of issues during the week.” he added, referring to SAMHSA Prevention Week.
The week began Monday with the prevention of overuse of prescription drugs and opioids. Tuesday was about preventing alcohol consumption and alcohol abuse, Wednesday was about preventing illicit drug use and juvenile marijuana use; on Thursday, the prevention of youth tobacco use, including e-cigarettes and vaping, and today it is about preventing suicide.
“It happened just before Christmas 2019,” Kathleen Dunckel recalled, adding that her daughter was 26 when she died.
They are barely ready to talk about it.
“We have lived our first birthdays and this would have been his second birthday since it happened,” Kathleen Dunckel said. “So maybe we wouldn’t have been so good a year ago.”
“Mental health issues (and suicide is one of the hardest issues to talk about) we’re happy to be on the side of having a more open conversation,” Eric Dunckel said.
He added that he sees society moving towards greater acceptance of mental health issues, but that more conversations are needed to continue in the right direction.
“We need to have it more in the light,” Eric Dunckel said.
“It’s a disease, not a moral failure,” Kathleen Dunckel added. “It’s a medical condition, not a character defect.”
Abigail Dunckel had moved to work in Portland, Oregon, according to her parents, who live in Haynes Township, Alcona County.
They found her on December 23, 2019. Her housemates were out of town on the weekend and found her when they returned.
“So I was out all over the country,” pointed out his mother. “So it was hard, at Christmas, to have her out and have family here.”
The Dunckels said that despite her struggles, her daughter was a bright girl.
Abigail Dunckel graduated from Alcona Community High School in 2011, earned a bachelor’s degree in Sign Language Interpretation from Lansing Community College and a Master’s in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University.
The Dunckels said she had been hospitalized for a previous attempt on November 7, 2019.
“It wasn’t a gesture,” said his father. “It was an attempt.”
She explained that she knew her roommates were supposed not to have left on the weekend, but her plans changed and they found her and were able to take her to the hospital.
“And it was the third time,” Eric Dunckel said. “She goes to the hospital, is medically authorized and is transferred to the psychology ward, but she is not cooperative, so she is discharged.”
“Well, they try to grab her and the court lets her go” added his mother. “Because I didn’t want to stay.”
They flew to be with her at that moment.
“We were there for about 10 days once we found out he was leaving the hospital,” said his father. “It was crazy because from then on, I don’t think we saw her sober.”
I was consuming alcohol and smoking THC.
“You know, the vaping of THC, we found out about the end of June last summer and we knew there was drink and stuff, but we didn’t know to what extent,” He said. “THC vaporization, its strength, is hallucinogenic.”
“THC steaming is getting high,” Kathleen Dunckel said. “There is no medical indication.”
Abigail had obtained a medical marijuana card while living in Lansing before moving to Portland.
“She rejected any kind of supervised or halfway house,” added.
Her father talked about Abigail’s behavior as a teenager.
“It was brilliant,” Eric Dunckel pointed out. “She was OK. He was diagnosed with bipolar in high school. There was a suicide attempt at the institute. We were getting signs that there was more alcohol consumption in high school and we knew when he left: he went to Michigan for a walk and just didn’t go to class. “
But then he adopted sign language at Lansing Community College.
“She got it” said his mother. “He built a life and he got it.”
Her daughter was never able to keep a job for long.
“She was a deaf assistant at one of Lansing’s middle schools the year after she graduated from the interpreter program, but other than those nine months, she was never fully occupied.” Kathleen Dunckel said. “She had difficulties at work, difficulties related to work, the relationship was rocky, cars shattered – she was a terrible driver – but she was also bright, kind and kind, and difficult as a child, with tantrums and explosions, it was complicated “.
He noted that when Abigail was 15, she had one “Strange” accident and fell out a window and broke his back.
“But she just struggled to get back there,” said his mother. “It was amazing … She didn’t get hooked on painkillers. We were a little worried about that, but she didn’t … We were just impressed with the courage.”
His parents said he went to counseling when he was younger and, after the first suicide attempt, took medication and went to counseling.
“But when they reach that age, you can force them to sit there, but if they don’t talk, if they don’t participate,” Kathleen Dunckel can’t do much more. “He took the medication … but really participating in the counseling didn’t seem to do him much good.”
The Dunckels want to encourage more conversations about mental health and get people to have the resources to identify and address suicidal indicators.
“We’ll see, for the rest of our lives, things … it’s not really a fault, it’s a complex thing that happens,” Eric Dunckel said, when you have a child who dies by suicide. “But, I think, if we had somehow had the understanding … that mental health was really important … Hopefully if something comes out of that, again, it’ll just move the conversation.”
He said seeing all the signs of emotional distress and knowing what to do with it is not as easy as fixing a broken arm.
“Abby was a troubled boy in many ways,” remembered his father. “It simply came to our notice then. And it wasn’t all the time, it’s not so black and white. It’s not the hanging arm. It’s different from that. However, if you see it and feel empowered to act … the parent or caregiver must be able to act. “
Kathleen Dunckel said teens, like adults, need to be willing to do counseling. But taking this first step just to ask them what’s going on or if they want to talk could save their lives.
“Talking to your children works” Kathleen Dunckel said. “It may not seem like it, for grumpy, grumpy teens, but parents have an influence on their kids. You have to say, smoking is bad. Drinking is bad.”
Talk about how they feel. Talk about vaping or substance abuse, so that they are better prepared to resist it when temptation arises. Look for resources in our community.
“Watch your kids, get involved, watch them, and when you see these things, keep that in mind.” Kathleen Dunckel said. “It simply came to our notice then. Help “.
He said they may not be aware of all the resources available, but they want others to have this information at their fingertips when they need it.
“You feel paralyzed,” Eric Dunckel said. “It gets complex because you just don’t know it.”
“But if it’s an emergency, go to the emergency room” pointed out his wife, whether it was a physical or mental health emergency.
“We need to be better able to understand mental health issues,” Eric Dunckel said.
“Mental health video services are very effective,” Kathleen Dunckel added, noting that during the COVID-19 pandemic this platform has become a popular and safe option.
Watch out for the following warning signs of someone who may be suicidal:
≤ Talk about wanting to die or kill yourself.
≤ Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a weapon.
≤ Talk about feeling desperate or having no reason to live.
≤ Talk about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
≤ Talk about being a burden to others.
≤ Increase alcohol or drug use.
≤ Act anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
≤ Too much sleep or too much.
≤ Retire or feel isolated.
≤ Show anger or talk about revenge.
≤ Show extreme mood swings.
The risk of suicide is higher if a behavior is new or has increased and if it appears to be related to a painful event, loss, or change.
Source: United States Department of Health and Human Services Substance abuse and administration of mental health services. Visit samhsa.gov for more information.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.
Darby Hinkley news photo Kathleen and Eric Dunckel hold their “travel diary” adorned with a photo of their late daughter Abigail Dunckel, who died by suicide in December 2019. The Dunckels want to share their story to help others to recognize warning signs and encourage conversation to help prevent suicide. Photo courtesy Abigail Dunckel, who died by suicide at age 26, struggled with mental health issues and substance abuse.
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