Silent Killer: WSU Social Work writer talks about her dad’s suicide

According to the World Health Organization, someone dies by suicide every 40 seconds. Until November 12, 2010, statistics like that were just numbers to Laura Hipshire, a part-time writer for the School of Social Work. That’s the day her dad, Doug McLean, killed himself.

Doug McLean
Doug McLean in high school, St. Gabriel's in Detroit

“My dad lived out of state, so we didn’t see each other as much as we would have liked to, but he emailed me every day from his local senior center. The last day he contacted me was November 10, 2010. He said the center would be closed on Nov. 11 for Veteran’s Day and that we’d talk the day after (Friday). When I didn’t receive my daily email on Friday, something told me to check on him. Later that day, I learned he had died at age 65. He hung himself,” said Hipshire.

Physically, her dad, a Vietnam veteran, was the picture of good health. No heart problems or cancer. He was active and ate a healthy diet. He had fallen on hard times, though, and was out of a job, financially struggling, and feeling depressed.

“I think he was silently suffering. People who die by suicide feel trapped in how they feel, and the situation they are in. They feel like there’s only one way out.”

She went through every range of emotions after her dad’s death — from sadness to anger — and the pain never goes away.

“I’m sure my dad wasn’t thinking about how his suicide would affect me, his only child. After a lot of counseling, I realized there was nothing I could have done.”

Doug McLean smiling
Doug McLean in happier times

Hipshire has experienced a lot of milestones since her dad died. She graduated with honors and earned an MBA. Her kids graduated from high school, and some graduated from college. After being alone for more than 20 years, she’s now in a happy relationship with a kind and caring man.

“Many of us have been affected by suicide at some point in our lives. Whether it’s an actor, a coworker or our own family member, suicide doesn’t discriminate. You can look healthy on the outside, and yet feel like you want to die on the inside.”

Most people who are affected by suicide have questions. Why? is the most common one, and in most cases, it won’t be answered.

“My dad may have been suffering from PTSD. I may never know, and I’ve accepted that. I think of my dad whenever I hear an Eagles or Steely Dan song and smile. He taught me a lot, and I’m proud to be his daughter. Suicide doesn’t define him; it is simply how he died.”

Despite all we know about suicide and mental illness, it’s still a taboo subject. Here are some points Hipshire wanted to share:

  • It’s okay to talk about it. You are not alone.
  • If you know someone suffering from a mental illness or who is mourning the loss of someone who died by suicide, your presence is what’s needed most. If you really want to do something, a card or home-cooked meal are great ideas.
  • Please don’t judge someone who commits suicide. They’ve suffered enough. Focus on the good memories, not how they died.
  • Mental illness is the same as physical illness. And, just like any other illness, professional help is essential for recovery, for those struggling with suicidal thoughts, and the loved ones left behind.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Even if you haven’t been personally affected, there are things you can do. You can wear a ribbon, light a candle, or attend an event. The most important thing you can do is talk about it. To learn more, click here and visit the Wayne State Suicide Prevention and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) sites.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 9-8-8.

You can reach Laura Hipshire at

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