A Suicide in Court: "I Can't Take It Anymore"
Date:  11-16-2016

When mental illness coupled with substance abuse is ignored dire consequences follow
From The Boston Globe:

LOWELL — Debra Silvestri slipped into the women’s bathroom at the district courthouse, pulling a plastic bag full of sedatives and antidepressants from her purse. Her lawyer had just told her the judge was thinking of sending her to a women’s prison because a court-ordered test showed she had been drinking.

For more than a year, the 55-year-old mother of three had come nearly every week to the Lowell Drug Court, a requirement of her probation following a 2012 drunken driving arrest. It was supposed to be a compassionate alternative for addicts such as Silvestri, a place that steered them away from jail and toward treatment.

But Silvestri had other problems that made drug court painful for her. She had struggled for years with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, once cutting her wrists and wandering the streets of Tewksbury, knocking on neighbors’ doors in the middle of the night.

Yet, court officials rarely asked Silvestri about her mental health. Instead, they focused on making sure she attended AA meetings, took random drug tests, and breathed into a machine that can detect alcohol use. Her life had turned into a succession of court-ordered deadlines that made her so anxious her hair had started falling out in clumps. “I can’t take it anymore,” Silvestri often told family members. On that afternoon in court in September 2015, Silvestri was terrified. Judge Thomas Brennan, a former prosecutor, sent at least half the people who came before him back to jail, usually for relatively minor probation violations like drinking or taking drugs. Silvestri was sure she would be next.

She emerged from the restroom. On her way into the courtroom, she saw her aunt, who had driven her to court that day.

“I don’t think I’m coming home with you today,” Silvestri said, kissing her aunt on the cheek. “Tell the kids I love them.”

Then, she took a seat at the front of the courtroom. One hour into the session, she slumped over, eyes closed. Two women sitting next to Silvestri grabbed her to keep her from falling to the floor. Read more >>