Several common myths exist regarding suicide and youths and they often incline even mental health professionals to believe them even though there’s too much information against them. Unfortunately, many of the myths are based on experience with young persons.
One of the primary myths that I’m writing about is the myth that people who will commit suicide have a distinct set of things they do and ways in which they act.
What are some of the things that people believe anyone who is planning suicide does? Putting them in no special order we would have to say they are:
1.give all of their possessions away
2.they are depressed
3.lack attention to their personal appearance and hygiene
4.a sense of hopelessness
6.lack of interest in the future
7.suicide is an attempt to get attention
8.notes are usually left
9.they have a mental health condition
10. mental health professional can accurately gauge suicide risk
The material that has been published and which has fostered several myths is based, in large part, on large demographic studies that pull out specific characteristics and then create a profile of the suicidal person and the suicidal behaviors or the behaviors leading up to the suicide. Some information is on young people and other aspects of the information pertains to specific times of the year and conditions of the person. Particular attention should be paid to the “conditions” because therein may lie the key to the suicide of Jeffrey Epstein.
From what we know, and we may know very little at this point since he committed suicide and was found in his cell at 6:30 AM on Saturday, August 10, 2019. An extensive investigation by the Department of Justice and the FBI is currently underway and more facts will come to light in the coming weeks and months.
Based on the little we know and some of the things that happened prior to today, there are some behaviors that have not been seen as indications of suicidal ideation but which, in my experience, does indicate that there is this potential. Incidentally, we know he had a prior suicide attempt just a few weeks ago, and that is a good indicator of intent. Not everyone attempts suicide for attention. Many really want to die.
Specifically, regarding Epstein’s behavior, I refer to the fact that he was in frequent and lengthy discussions with his legal team, up to eight hours a day, regarding his defense of not guilty of all charges against him at this point. Involvement in legal matters in the way in which Epstein was, would indicate that he had some hope that the future held a positive outcome of his trial. That would exclude the sense of hopelessness and also possibly the depression.
As far as we know, he had not been diagnosed with a mental health condition normally associated with suicidal ideation although he was a pedophile. We know that a psychiatrist had interviewed and evaluated him in the jail. In fact, after his prior suicide attempt in the jail the psychiatrist maintained contact and regular evaluations. One week ago, just before the latest release of a trove of information regarding Epstein and his associates, the psychiatrist took him off suicide watch. The psychiatrist could not know how damning Epstein might feel about this information.
Quotes from persons who have had experience in the Federal prison system have noted that the personnel in those facilities are highly trained in protecting persons from suicide and in expecting suicide by virtue of behaviors or verbalizations on their part. We might suspect, therefore, that Jeffrey Epstein was quite clever in hiding his intention to kill himself from even these highly trained guards and other mental health personnel, including the prison psychiatrist.
I must make one note regarding suicidal ideation and the prediction of whether or not someone will commit suicide. I cannot fault the prison psychiatrist because it is almost impossible to know whether or not someone will commit suicide unless you have some iron-clad means of knowing. I don’t think such an iron-clad means exists at this point although there are suicide psychological scales which can be administered.
Psychiatrists rarely administer these scales and depend on interviews for their evaluations. You would have to question the results of the scales, however, because, if someone is intent on killing themselves, the last thing they will do is be truthful on a scale that would reveal their plans. But the scale developers knew that would be a problem and incorporated lie scales within the measures as well as a “manipulation check.”
Meeting with his attorneys, they saw Epstein as upbeat and taking part willingly daily. They had already given him what is known as a “sweetheart deal” in soliciting a prostitute and sex charges in Florida in 2008. Pleading to lesser charges and having his records sealed, he didn’t go to prison, but to his office in Miami 12 hours daily, six days a week, sometimes without a police escort. The drive to his office, where he met a variety of people, was in his personal, chauffeured car and he even stopped at one of his residences.
The Miami Herald explained his treatment this way:
“He took the concept of “work-release” to a whole new level. He was allowed to leave the stockade 12 hours a day, six days a week and, upon his return, stayed in a mostly empty wing of the facility.
For Epstein, jail wasn’t incarceration so much as an inconvenience. They gave deputies permission to leave his cell unlocked while he was there. He was more of an out-mate than an inmate.
Sometimes he got to watch TV in a room normally reserved for attorneys visiting jailed clients.
During his daily road trips, he was followed by off-duty deputies who were paid $126,000 for their respectful supervision. The officers often wore business suits and addressed him as “Mr. Epstein.”
Reasons to Be Cheerful
Given that he was a convicted child molester and that this was his “punishment” for that crime, it is fair to think Epstein might have supposed that his wealth and powerful connections would, once again, aid him in turning a blind eye by the legal system to these latest charges. He was, a confidant of foreign ministers, billionaires, corporate executives and entertainment stars.
Epstein owned a $77M, 21K sq. ft. mansion, one of the largest if not the largest, in Manhattan, another mansion in Palm Beach, a ranch in New Mexico, homes in Paris and other cities and a private island in the Caribbean. Even an ex-President rode with him on his private jet, a 727, which had special padding on the floor, allegedly, to provide comfort during sexual escapades in flight.
Did Epstein really believe that he would spend the rest of his life in prison? If that thought began to dawn on him and he truly intended to commit suicide, he would not have revealed that fact to anyone. He knew what to say to the prison psychiatrist and how to appear hopeful when meeting with his attorneys.
But were they missing that tell-tale personal hygiene thing? Compare the photo from Vanity Fair you may have seen and the AP photo of Epstein that appeared in the New York Daily News. The News photo is at the top of this article.
Signs They Missed?
Would there be any reason for him to appear so haggard, poorly groomed and deeply lined if he were truly expecting the exoneration of all charges or a slap on the wrist? Look at the man. He looks like someone you would have seen on the Bowery before it went upscale and still had flophouses and seedy bars.
As a psychologist who has interviewed people who were thought to be suicidal, I know how the most intense interviews do not reveal the true intent. It happened to me once after an hour-long interview. The young man told of his plans to leave the next day with a friend who would drive with him cross-country where they had jobs waiting for them. Within an hour of leaving my office he had blown his brains out in his bedroom. Another man passed by my office, stopped to wish me a good day, waved and left only to jump out of his car into oncoming traffic on a highway.
Were signs missed? Possibly because I don’t think “highly-trained prison personnel” would fail to see them. And didn’t they have a video monitoring his cell 24/7, anyway? Wouldn’t someone be manning the bank of monitors and see what he was doing? He didn’t have a private area where he could go and hide or did he? We know that’s how El Chapo escaped from prison in Mexico.
One thing we professionals know about persons who commit suicide, however, is that once they have decided, they may be at peace and be upbeat. It’s not an act and Jeffrey Epstein may have decided how he would end his life — if he wasn’t murdered as some suspect.
Conspiracy theorists are already all over this one and, of course, they’re blaming the usual hilarious suspects. Will we ever know or will it take something like the Warren Commission to investigate it and even then we won’t be sure we have the complete truth?