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Mental Health

I was sad to read the story in today’s paper about a man who apparently snapped because of insurance problems and tried to “commit suicide by cop.” He tried to get the police to kill him by driving recklessly and then resisting arrest. “Just kill me!” They didn’t.

The guy in question is John McCusker, a photographer for the Times-Picayune. I met him back in early April when the paper ran their first installment on our renovation. He took my picture in our flooded basement. I remember we talked about the Times-Picayune and how many people’s respect for the paper had increased after Katrina. We talked about photography and I recommended checking out Flickr. We also talked about his hassles in dealing with FEMA and insurance.

Apparently it all just got to him, and he freaked out. Can’t say I blame him. We’re all in a rather fragile state, mentally, even people in the “dry” neighborhoods. We’ve all been traumatized to some extent, and I’m not just talking about the dark days immediately after Katrina. The trauma continues here every day, and the end is nowhere in sight.

On a similar (but brighter) note: I had been a little worried about a friend and co-worker and neighbor of mine, MaPó, because she was dealing with a lot of stresses: flooded house, shady contractors, overloaded at work, husband living in Baton Rouge. I saw her last night, and was pleased as punch to see her in good spirits. School’s not in session, so that’s one less thing to worry about. She got a good carpenter to work on her house, and thought it’s only halfway done, it’s looking fantastic. That makes me very happy, because MaPó is one of those great people who makes New Orleans such an intresting place to live. I’d have been really bummed if she’d pulled a McCusker.

As for John, I hope he’s doing better today. I hope he can look back on this and laugh some day, but I imagine that will be a long time coming. Here’s an audio interview with him from the public radio.

Update: Da Po’ Boy has some thoughts on this, which led me to a story about McCusker in the NY Times, which in turn led me to hunt down a recent story in the American Journalism Review. Damn, this is painful stuff. Dan Frazier also has a write-up on Metroblogging New Orleans.

Published inNeighborsNew Orleans


  1. Good grief. The T-P version of this story is quite disturbing. I hope he won’t be too seriously charged and that he’s somehow he’s getting some kind of help. Is there help for this kind of loss? *sigh* The whole thing started quite near my son’s house.

  2. I can say that I understand where he’s coming from, at one point in my life all I had was stress driving me to be committed and being in a bad state mentally. Stress is one of the most common causes of mental break downs. My best wishes goes out to MR McCusker, I hope that he can get himself back on track and live a healthy and happy life.

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