Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Maybe we need a Ksenia Alert system.

L-R: Cayman Naib and Ksenia Quiros
Twice in less than one month, I have watched a tragedy play out on Facebook. I'm writing today in hopes that, next time, it plays out differently.

It started with an alert: someone had gone missing. In both cases, there were allusions to some emotional distress, but it was all inference, nothing clear. In the first case, officials were involved and instigated a search with some urgency because of inclement weather -- there was fear that he might die of exposure -- as if suicide were not the greater risk. In the second case, officials dragged their heels and did not instigate a search, merely urging people to keep their eyes peeled.

In fact, officials actively discouraged public involvement in the search.
[The Public Information Officer] indicated that they are not organizing any community searches at this point because beyond where they have presently searched, they have no leads on where a large scale search party should be deployed.  
In the end, my friend, Stacy, spearheaded the search for Ksenia. Here are Stacy's comments after Ksenia's body was found.
The alert went out [to officials] Wednesday [she was found on Saturday] that she left all family documents on bottom of her bed. purse left on bottom of bed. She was wearing clogs. She was a runner, but NOT a hiker. None of this sent out to public. She was more than distraught. She was suicidal.

Here is the announcement that should have gone out [to the public] on Wed., when police were first made aware:

SUICIDAL WOMAN parked at entrance of Stratton Open Space. Need all hands on deck to locate her. Search and Rescue CANNOT search this large open space by themselves. Need all volunteers, boots on ground, to locate her in Stratton Open Space where her truck was parked and where dogs have her scented into the Canyon.

We, as a city, as a community, would have mobilized hundreds of people Wed night, Thurs morning to find her.

To those of you who came out on Friday, Saturday, to search for her, thank you for caring.
I've tried to figure out why the calls for help shy away from mentioning the possibility, even likelihood, of suicide. The only thing I can think of is shame. Is it misplaced discretion for the families?

Wouldn't those families rather have their loved one found before it is too late?

Stacy posted the following on a community message board, after Ksenia was found:
This is about mental illness and society's inability to respond to situational depression in a non-traditional, "different manner": situational depression [depression triggered by a traumatic life event] in which INTERVENTION is key and in which intervention does lead to different endings. 

In the case of SITUATIONALLY depressed/suicidal persons missing, the Police Dept, the Fire Dept, the media, in collaboration with a mental health consultant, should put out an URGENT PLEA for community intervention (i.e., community search party) to request IMMEDIATE assistance in locating a SITUATIONALLY depressed/suicidal person. 

Everyone was "doing their job" and doing it well. All departments. All personnel. Doing what they are trained to do. 

But this situation called for "above and beyond." It called for a URGENT response to a SITUATIONALLY depressed/suicidal situation. It was not
(All emphasis is from the original text.) For my part, I'm not sure that the distinction of situational depression versus garden-variety depression should make any difference. If someone is suicidal and their loved ones fear for their safety, then the search is urgent.

It might not have made a difference, but it could have. In these days of social media, an urgent call to action can have dramatic results. Most police and fire departments have instant communication channels for alerts like this.

Until officials start being more frank in their calls for help, we are probably wise to assume that the individual who has gone missing (as opposed to a suspected abduction) is suicidal and we should run, not walk, to find them before they do the irrevocable and leave gaping wounds in the hearts of those who love them.

Maybe we need a Ksenia Alert: like an Amber Alert, but for people who are believed to be suicidal.

What do you think? Would you be more likely to tie on your boots and head out to help in the search if you thought every minute counted, rather than thinking that, perhaps, the "distraught" person was just going for a long walk to clear his or her head?


  1. I think that is a fabulous idea!!
    although, it's sad that it should even be required. wouldn't it be awesome if we lived in the kind of world where people just wanted to help because it was the right thing to do?! because they actually care about people in their community. But in lieu of that: an alert system sounds great.

    1. It is sad that we need such a thing, but it would be great for calling the community together. Most schools and fire/police departments have social messaging.


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