I want to thank you again for last week’s article about Sam Price (“Saving Sam,” Dec. 25). I agree with Jessie Brownlee’s comment that we all could have done more. We are all in some ways responsible, but I also want to say that I think that she did find support and safety here -- just not enough to get her through. 

I want to thank the women of the Emma Center, who made such a difference to her, all her friends from there and WSP and Friends of the Dunes and Audubon, and particularly Thor and Elaine for helping to get her here and making her feel safe enough to stay a while and try to live. I wish we could have done better, and I wish we lived in world where kids weren’t abused or at least where there were more resources for people trying to recover. But I’m grateful to have had Sam in my life and I hope we can all learn something from her -- about caring for our friends, our community and people we don’t even know, as well as the amazing planet we live on and all the beings in it.

Sue Hilton, Arcata

Sweet Spot: Sue Hilton wins a Bon Boniere sundae for sending our favorite letter of the week.



I was moved by the article “Saving Sam,” which describes the life and too-early death of Sarah Jane “Sam” Price. What a tragic loss of a beautiful young woman, who, from the descriptions of her friends, colleagues and family, was bright and talented. However, she suffered from (at the very least) major depression and, in spite of her very positive qualities, felt like a “loser.” I am also responding to the letter from Meighan O’Brien (“Mailbox,” Jan. 1), who writes that medications merely “mask authentic feelings.” I am concerned that people may have a negative impression of all anti-depressant medications. While side-effects can be part of any medication, and all prescriptions can be misused/abused, I have seen the benefits of a combination of medications and psychotherapy for those with major depression. 

If someone is feeling excessively sad for more than two weeks, loses pleasure in their normal activities, is withdrawn socially and/or has changes in mood, eating, sleeping or functioning, she or he needs to see a health care or mental health provider for an assessment. Medications are but one tool in the treatment for depression, and the decision to take anti-depressants should be made between a client and his/her health care or mental health provider. Counseling with an empathetic therapist is important for healing. Self-help support groups, which are free and plentiful in our community, can focus on specific issues.  Family, friends and spiritual support are important resources as well. Exercise and good nutrition have an important impact on mood. In other words, there are many things that can be done to improve depression and increase hope. Suicidality is a psychiatric emergency, and help is available 24/7 by calling 911 or the county’s mental health crisis line (445-7715).

Depression and other mental health conditions -- whether they are labeled “biological brain disorders” is beside the point -- are treatable, and no one should feel as if they cannot be helped. We have many excellent health and mental health care providers in our community.

Seek out a care provider you feel comfortable with and continue with a treatment plan. Depression can be a chronic condition that is treatable and manageable. Healing is possible and people with depression can lead quality lives. To paraphrase Dr. Rubin in the article, this too shall pass. In the meantime, help is available.

Lori Cole, Arcata


Reading the letter “Through the Fog” written by Meighan O’Brien (Jan. 1), I was reminded of Peter Kramer’s expression “psychopharmacological Calvinism.” This is his term for people who object to the use of anti-depressant drugs. I gather this includes both the writer and the editor who awarded Ms. O’Brien this week’s Bon Boniere sundae.

Out of several questions the letter raises, the one I address is how the writer would force a patient -- psychiatric or other -- to return medications to the doctor. Even if our “free” society wanted pill police tramping through the privacy of our homes, hiding pills is still a piece of cake, as anyone who has ever done it well knows.

My hope for Ms. O’Brien as well as for the journalist who awarded the Bon Boniere sundae is that neither ever suffers from depression, a malady that runs through one side of my family. However, if this fate should befall them -- or has -- I hope they take advantage of all the treatments available. Let us remember that the American taboo against suicide is not universally shared and that death is sometimes the only way to close a wound. (“Death is not the opening of a gate, but the closing of a wound.”)

Gael Hodgkins, Eureka

Ed. note: Reminder -- the “Sweet Spot” sundae giveaway recognizes compelling writing. It does not imply endorsement of a writer’s ideas, neither by Bon Boniere nor the Journal. 

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