By On February 22nd, 2013

Mindy McCready: A Path to Suicide

“All her troubles were self-inflicted. She had everything. She was a tremendous talent but everything about it was a waste.” These words from actor, Dean Cain, a former fiancé of Mindy McCready, are a common response to the recent tragedy of McCready’s death from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  Unfortunately, mental illness and substance abuse issues remain widely misunderstood. As we struggle to make sense of what is a senseless tragedy, we often blame the individual rather than examining the complexities of the issues.

Earlier this week, Mindy, a country singer who rose to fame in the late 1990s, was found dead on the porch of her Arkansas home from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. One month before, her boyfriend, David Wilson, was found on the same porch dead from what appeared to be a suicide by gun, however it continues to be investigated. What led her down the path that ended in suicide?  Mindy was a mother to two young boys, one fathered by Wilson. She had recently lost custody of her children. Losing her boyfriend to suicide as well as being questioned in the investigation of his death and custody issues with her children were two extremely stressful life events that occurred within one month for Mindy. This would be unimaginably difficult for anyone to handle, however, there are several interconnected factors that increased the intricacy of these events for Mindy.

In recent years, Mindy was in the news as a result of her problems with substance abuse and upheaval in her personal life. Many people may not know that Mindy also had a traumatic brain injury (TBI).  Viewers of the reality show, “Celebrity Rehab,” saw her experience a seizure, something that often accompanies TBI. Mindy attributed her brain injury to physical abuse by the father of her oldest son which is documented by charges filed in 2005 accusing him of attempted murder by choking and beating her. Mindy’s TBI is significant because research shows people with TBI have difficulty controlling their impulses and resulting personality changes often interfere with their relationships with others. An increase in depression is associated with TBI, and, combined with Mindy’s substance abuse problems, a cycle of self-medicating most likely developed. Traumatic brain injury causes a decrease in one’s ability to recognize the consequences of their actions. This also feeds into the cycle of substance abuse, and makes it that much more difficult to maintain sobriety.

It is difficult to sort out the various factors that contributed to this tragedy. In the last song Mindy recorded, she sang, “If tomorrow’s gonna be the same, I’ll see you yesterday.” This lyric seems to be a reflection of how she may have felt stuck in a vicious cycle.  A combination of traumatic brain injury, substance abuse problems, depression and a spike in risk due to situational stressors all contributed to this tragedy. Mindy was not alone in what she experienced as many people have mental illness and substance abuse problems complicated by underlying issues like traumatic brain injury.  The path to recovery is not an easy one, but there is help available for you or a loved one. Hopefully, Mindy’s story can help provide education to others and help to prevent another tragedy.

Click here for The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

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