Horror as teenager commits suicide live online
Mike Harvey, Technology Correspondent, in San Francisco
A mistreated mental illness took the lives of Danielle Lambert's twin sister and two young children nearly a year ago. Pushing aside her anger and frustration, Lambert and her husband, Ken, have their used their grief as a driving force to prevent similar tragedies.
Keep Sound Minds, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the memories of Kaleigh and Shane Lambert and Marci Thibault, is aimed at promoting mental health awareness by pushing for better education and policy changes.
"We wanted to prevent this from happening again to another family," said Lambert, who suggested starting an organization a few weeks after her two children were killed. "I had to do something."
Family members say a sudden, unexpected psychotic relapse on the night of Jan. 11, 2008, caused Lambert's sister, Marci Thibault, to pull over to the side of Interstate 495 South in Lowell, undress herself, 5-year-old Kaleigh and 4-year-old Shane, take them in her arms and walk into oncoming traffic. The Lamberts' only children and Thibault were killed by two cars.
"We go through the scenarios and there were so many missed opportunities," Lambert said.
Thibault was treated for a brief episode of mental illness last September, but she said a lack of education, discussion and follow-up "led to tragedy."
Many in the community came out in support of a bowling benefit yesterday for Keep Sound Minds at PiNZ in Milford. Such support has been consistent since the January accident, said the Lamberts, who live in Brentwood, N.H. Lambert is one of eight Coady sisters, born and raised in Bellingham.
The Lamberts are gearing up for a larger fundraising event slated for March at the Sheraton Hotel in Boston. The benefit will launch a scholarship fund and will feature guest speakers, a raffle and silent auction.
Through Keep Sound Minds, the Lambert, Coady and Thibault families hope to raise awareness and increase education about mental disorders.
One target area focuses on changing law enforcement procedures and recognizing mental illness as a public safety issue.
The Lamberts still wonder why police didn't seem to respond appropriately to her behavior just hours before the double murder-suicide.
State police said 39-year-old Thibault had a minor accident and was cited on I-495 North in Andover on her way to pick up her niece and nephew. Another motorist told state police she appeared agitated, but she was rational and responsive when troopers arrived.
Lambert said she believes Marci showed police "clear signs of psychosis," but then snapped back to normal by the time she arrived in Brentwood.
"She seemed perfectly normal," she recalled.
The Lamberts later learned from a witness that Thibault said she was "taking (the children) to heaven."
"I knew it wasn't malicious," Lambert said. "I knew it was her illness that came back."
Choking back tears, she said she would have never let her sister take the children if she showed signs of instability.
"I didn't know much about mental disorders, neither did a lot of people in the family," said Ken Lambert, clutching his tearful wife's hand. "If we had known more, this could have been prevented."
Another goal of Keep Sound Minds is to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness, said Ken Lambert.
"People don't want to talk about it, but you need the knowledge," he said. "Education can protect people."
Changing procedures to discharge mental health patients can also prevent needless tragedy, the Lamberts said.
In Thibault's case, Danielle Lambert said doctors "belittled" her concerns about her sister.
"It was scary to me, but they told me, 'Don't worry,"' she recalled after doctors diagnosed Thibault with bipolar disorder and let her leave the hospital. "They took away my fear."
During the holiday season last year, the Thibaults and Lamberts celebrated Christmas together and felt Marci had improved.
"She loved kids .. she loved our kids," Danielle Lambert said. "And they were so excited to go with her."
The faces of the Lamberts' children still smile from an etching on a gold pendant hanging from Danielle Lambert's neck.
"They were beautiful kids, we miss them so much," she said. "We never thought we'd be in this place, but we're trying to do something positive."
Michelle Simpson, who volunteered at yesterday's bowling event, credits the Lamberts' initiative.
"I was inspired by how they turned a devastating tragedy into something positive," said Simpson, whose husband grew up in the Coadys' Bellingham neighborhood. "They want to make a change and prevent a similar tragedy from happening in the future."
For more information, visit www.keepsoundminds.org.
|Updated 1h 15m ago ||
Hurry Down Sunshine
By Michael Greenberg
Other Press, 234 pp., $22
In this powerful memoir, writer Michael Greenberg describes the terrifying summer his 15-year-old daughter, Sally, became a stranger to herself and to her father. In August 1996, the lively teenager became, almost overnight, manic and uncontrollable, unable to stop talking as words poured out. The cause: the onset of bipolar disorder. Taken to a Manhattan emergency room, Sally was immediately placed in the hospital's psychiatric unit.
With spare, unemotional prose, Greenberg captures what it's like to have a mentally ill child and the way the disease strips him of his sense of control over his daughter's health. He describes the powerful anti-psychotic medications that Sally receives, and how she responds. Eventually she is released from the hospital and returns to high school.
Greenberg offers no miracle cure: Sally struggles with the disorder today. And to his credit, he does not demonize the overworked but caring doctors who treat his daughter.
Stalking Irish Madness: Searching for the Roots of My Family's Schizophrenia
By Patrick Tracey
Bantam, 273 pp., $24
In this fascinating memoir/travelogue, Irish-American journalist Patrick Tracey describes the journey he has taken in life because of schizophrenia.
His story begins in Boston as two of his older sisters were diagnosed in their early 20s with the disease. One withdrew into herself in dark despair. The other acted out in outrageous ways, thinking she was the bride of Christ. Thirty years later, both live in group homes. Their fates seemed linked to that of their Irish-American grandmother, who was institutionalized for 31 years with schizophrenia until her death.
Tracey fled the USA for many years, until a conversation with a London doctor led him back to the disease that haunted him. He interviewed scientists: Its cause remains a mystery. He traveled to Ireland looking for his grandmother's relatives. In the end, he returns to Boston to reconnect with his sisters.
Scattershot: My Bipolar Family
By David Lovelace
Dutton, 292 pp., $24.95
The author of Scattershot has an extraordinary grasp of what it means to have bipolar disorder. David Lovelace grew up in Massachusetts with bipolar parents. His brother is bipolar, as is David. In the year 1986, every Lovelace male was committed to a psychiatric hospital at some point.
Only his sister does not have the disease.
Yet Scattershot is not a horror story but rather a portrait of a loving if sometimes crazy family. Lovelace's father is a brilliant theologian and an expert on Puritan thinkers including Cotton Mather. His mother is an artist. Lovelace is a published poet and bookseller.
He details how his parents, his brother and he all follow the same biochemical pattern. They zoom from manic highs of creativity to bottomless lows. This empathetic memoir illustrates that medication is as essential for people with bipolar disorder as insulin is for diabetics.
Blue Genes: A Memoir of Loss and Survival
By Christopher Lukas
Doubleday, 248 pp., $24.95
In Blue Genes, TV producer and director Christopher Lukas describes the shadow of sorrow that suicide has cast over his life.
The book opens in 1997 with the suicide of the author's older brother, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist J. Anthony Lukas. This continued a terrible family tradition. Their 33-year-old mother had committed suicide in 1941, when her sons were 6 and 8, after struggling with bipolar disorder for years.
In Blue Genes, Lukas movingly describes what it was like to grow up the child of a suicide. Lukas' father became an alcoholic, and the boys were sent to boarding school. He writes about feeling abandoned and angry. He also describes his loving but complex relationship with his brother.
Yet this memoir also affirms the joy Lukas has found in being a husband and father. His story will resonate with readers who have lost friends or family members to suicide.