The Vulnerable Reality of Suicide and Prevention with Dr. Joyce Spurgeon

Dr. Joyce Spurgeon shares her personal loss of her closest childhood friend, Jeannie. We go back in time to the exact moment that she found out this devastating news. We discussed the feelings of despair, hopelessness and burden someone feels when they decide they can no longer stay on earth.

This is a vulnerable episode and is filled with our professional and personal experiences of all the emotions and solutions around suicide awareness and prevention.

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Joyce A Spurgeon, MD completed medical school at the University of Louisville and went on to do her residency in adult psychiatry there.  When she finished her residency, she stayed at University of Louisville as the associate training director for the psychiatric residency.  She progressed up and associate professor and became the training director and her clinical work was specializing in the treatment of mental illness in the peripartum period.  Following her time at UofL, she changed the directions in her career.  She was hired as the only psychiatrist at a Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, Indiana where she has worked for the past 7 years.  She is proud to work closely with the primary care providers to help treat mental illness in a vastly underserved community.

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Sacred Remembrance of Jeannie

Two little girls kneel over the mud pile- they are making their specialty- mud pies are so much fun to create.  They are covered in mud, their sweaty hair sticky to their heads, but huge smiles wreath their faces.  They join hands and pledge to be best friends forever.  Those hands age over the years but they always find their way back to each other.  In middle and high school, their lives divide but when things get really tough, the call in the middle of the night always goes to the other.  Their adult lives move them into different locations, yet when they talk, it is as if no time has passed.  Something happened in those early years over the mud piles, wild sledding snow days, church camp, and bike riding…..they became each other’s anchor.  They each wanted to find ways to help other people.  One became a nurse, the other a doctor.  Yet, when they talked, they were just two little girls in adult bodies.

When mental illness hit my friend, I , as a psychiatrist, felt scared.  I knew what was happening.  I could see all the warning signs, and I could not control the progression.  I tried to prepare her parents for what might happen and what I hoped to never witness.   I got her into treatment.  I asked for many favors for people to try to help her because I could only be her friend.  It was not enough.  My worst fears were realized… tow headed best buddy from the age of 4 was gone…..she hung herself because we had told all of the local gun stores to not sell her a gun.  We thought we had protected her.  It is only in a small town that you can get away with this type of protection.  Yet, she believed that the only way that she could be free was to stand before Jesus and ask for forgiveness, so she decided to go and do that.  Yet what she left behind….well, she left us journals that tried to explain her reasoning but only revealed her illness.  For, in truth, none of us are better because she is gone.

Jeannie died by suicide on May 17th.  That day is a day that changed the course of my life.  I lost one of my anchors, one of the people who knew me as no one else will ever know me in my life.  When she died, I promised myself that I would not let the way she died define who she was.  She has and will always be my best buddy from my childhood, the keeper of my dreams and hopes.  And, I will continue to carry her with me for the rest of my life.  She still walks with her hand in mine- I just can’t feel it in real life anymore, but I know it is there.    So, I talk about how she died because I feel like she was taken too soon from us all because of her mental illness, yet I want you to know that her life was so much more to me.  I never thought that this is how the story of those two little girls would end.  I will miss you forever, my friend.


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