Suicide in Ohio results in the death of dozens of exotic animals.

What a tragedy.

I just learned that a man in Ohio who kept a large number of wild animals as pets, turned them all loose late yesterday afternoon before turning a gun on himself.  The carnage continued from there.  Witnesses called in sightings of roaming lions, tigers, wolves, and bears, after which local law enforcement, with consultation from the Columbus Zoo and other agencies, were given the order to shoot on sight.

As of this writing, the majority of the dozens of wild animals the troubled man set free are now dead.  Of course it could have been even worse.  Additional innocent bystanders in the area, both human and animal, might have easily added to the count.  I’m grateful…I really am…that the ripples of this bloodbath were stopped before they could spread any farther.  But I’m still sobered and deeply saddened by this unspeakable waste of life.

And also…uneasy.

There are clear signs that suicide rates are on the rise since the recession began.  Yet, even while the levels of economic stress and fear are heightening instability, federal and state funding for mental health (which was nowhere near enough to begin with) is now being slashed or eliminated entirely.  Needless to say this is not a promising combination.

IF YOU’RE CONSIDERING SUICIDE: Please, if you’ve wondered if it might stop the pain, or if those you love would be better off without you, or if you just feel so out there on the edge that you’re not sure you can take anymore, pleasebefore you take a last step that can never be undone, make at least one phone call; to a loved one or a friend or a hotline.  (I’ve listed some suicide hotline numbers below.)  If it doesn’t work, you haven’t lost anything by trying.  But if it does work…if, with some help, you’re able to find a way through the current darkness back to a life you love…then not only will you be safe but you’ll also have protected everything you care about most from any taste of the kind of carnage that happened in Ohio yesterday.

FOR FRIENDS OR LOVED ONES:  And if you’re worried about someone else, you can also call one of the numbers listed above.  Or click here for an excellent article with information on what to do if you think someone you know may be considering suicide.

With things as stressful as they are right now, and with the social safety net growing ever weaker, we need to look out for one another more than ever.  I realize the temptation is to get angry over what happened to these beautiful animals and look for someone to blame.  But it would probably do more good to look for others who are still in need of help instead.  Maybe we could prevent something like this from happening again.

My heart goes out to everyone surviving yesterday’s events; Mr.Thompson’s wife and family, their friends and neighbors, the police who were forced to shoot the innocent animals involved, the officials who had to make the difficult decisions, and the remaining animals who have to endure the trauma of loss, fear, confusion, dislocation, and possible euthanasia this has caused.  I wish everyone involved strength, clarity, and forgiveness in navigating the coming days.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255

Veterans Suicide Hotline – Confidential Help for Veterans: Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1

Or go to for a list of hotlines by state as well as a hotline for the deaf.