Tuesday, October 16 , 2018, 7:29 pm | Fair 63º


Bill Macfadyen: Suicide Is a Touchy Subject, But Sometimes We Have to Report It

A cliff dive, Target practice, warrantless DUI searches, and the 'Best of Bill' round out the NoozWeek Top 5, along with a warm welcome to Randi Rabin

Randi Rabin is a personable, accomplished psychotherapist with an extensive network of counseling clients and friends in Santa Barbara. She and her husband, Harry, recently pitched a column idea to executive editor Tom Bolton and me, and it wasn’t long before we were hooked on their vision.

Her column, The Feelings Doctor, has now made its debut, and the weekly feature will be posted every Friday on Noozhawk. The column is a Q&A format and she’s inviting readers to submit questions for her to answer.

Randi Rabin (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)
Randi Rabin (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

Few topics are out of bounds. Marriage, family, relationships, substance abuse, trauma, grief and even sports psychology are among her interests and expertise.

Randi graduated from Antioch University Santa Barbara with a degree in psychology and earned her master’s at Pacifica Graduate Institute in 2005. After seven years with New Beginnings Counseling Center and the Center for Successful Aging, she opened her own practice in Montecito three years ago.

“My main focus is listening,” she told Noozhawk’s Gina Potthoff in a recent interview. “There’s not really one (topic) focus. I love what I do.”

Questions can be submitted anonymously and no names will be published. There are no guarantees that she’ll use your question, but she’s no shrinking violet and is excited about the opportunity to engage with Noozhawk readers. So are we.

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What were you reading on Noozhawk this past week?

1. Gunshot Suicide Reported in Car on Mesa in Santa Barbara

An apparent suicide in a quiet Mesa neighborhood started drawing heavy readership as soon as we posted Lara Cooper’s report April 19. A week later, the story was still generating reads and forwards.

But our reporting also directed a bright light at an uncomfortable topic, prompting a handful of readers to personally request that we remove the article from our site. These readers were within their rights to ask, and were doing so out of concern for the family and friends of the victim. We get that.

While we’re sympathetic to their position, there are several reasons why we are unable to comply. First, as a professional news agency, we can’t “unpublish” the news we report. It’s a slippery slope that has long-range implications for the credibility of our reporters, our editors and our company. I can assure you that Noozhawk’s professional journalists strive every day to report the news responsibly, accurately and with context, regardless of the difficulty of the subject.

Equally important, as a professional news organization, Noozhawk follows a defined set of guidelines governing how our writers and editors report and present the news. We have a Noozhawk Style Manual that is not just designed to ensure consistency and uniformity in our practices but to anticipate scenarios we might encounter. Suicide is one of them.

According to our style manual, “In general, we do stories on suicides only in two cases: When the victim is prominent in the community or when the death occurs in a public place.” (Click here for a previous column explaining how Noozhawk reports on suicide.)

In the Mesa incident, the death occurred in a vehicle parked on a public street, prompting a large response of emergency personnel after the victim was discovered just after noon. That alone makes it newsworthy, however callous it may sound.

And I know it does and I also know why. But while there is a mystery that surrounds suicide, the fact remains that it’s a leading cause of death in the United States. It’s No. 10 to be exact, with more than 38,000 suicides in 2011, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis of the most recent data available. That’s well below accidental deaths but far above homicides.

It’s cold comfort if your family has been touched by suicide, but there are things that each of us can do to help prevent the next such incident. Click here for free suicide prevention resources that are available 24 hours a day.

2. Fall From Isla Vista Cliff Seriously Injures 22-Year-Old Man

A 22-year-old man was seriously injured April 21 when he fell off the Isla Vista cliffs. Santa Barbara County fire Engineer Russ Sechler said emergency personnel were called out to the 6600 block of Del Playa Drive just after midnight and found the victim on the beach below.

Sechler said the man apparently was climbing over the fence at the top of the cliff when he fell. No further details were available.

Target would like to build a store at Hollister Avenue and Los Carneros Way in Goleta. Some Design Review Board appointees were seeing red after the retailer's April 23 presentation, however. (Target rendering)
Target would like to build a store at Hollister Avenue and Los Carneros Way in Goleta. Some Design Review Board appointees were seeing red after the retailer’s April 23 presentation, however. (Target rendering)

3. Revised Plans for Target Store Materialize for Goleta’s Design Review Board

Target officials were back before Goleta’s Design Review Board on April 23 to present requested modifications to the 160,000-square-foot store they want to build on the northeast corner of Hollister Avenue and Los Carneros Way.

The DRB appointees were generally complimentary of the overall architecture of the podium store design, which would allow for parking underneath the building. They were less impressed with some other features, with board member Carl Schneider pulling back his arrow and letting it fly.

“I don’t like the red,” he bluntly told Target’s representatives.

Although showing his true colors, Schneider’s declaration does not necessarily mean the end is near. Target’s application remains incomplete and must be finished before the city can conduct an environmental review of the project.

4. Supreme Court Case Ends Forced Blood Draws for DUI Cases Without a Warrant

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that police must obtain a search warrant before requiring a blood sample from a motorist suspected of driving under the influence. Police in Missouri v. McNeely had argued that the natural diminishment of alcohol in a suspect’s bloodstream should entitle officers to a blanket exemption from the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment barring unreasonable searches and seizures. The Supreme Court disagreed.

Authorities say the ruling is unlikely to have much effect locally.

“From a practical standpoint, it probably won’t impact us too much,” Santa Barbara police Sgt. Riley Harwood told our Giana Magnoli. “Forced draws are only done in a very small percentage of our investigations to begin with.”

California Vehicle Code Section 23612 (a) states that anyone driving a motor vehicle is deemed to have given consent to a chemical test of his or her blood or breath for the purpose of determining blood-alcohol content.

Santa Barbara County Chief Deputy District Attorney Kelly Scott told Magnoli that the McNeely ruling has no effect on the breath test or implied consent law.

5. Bill Macfadyen: 20-Year-Old’s Jarring Death Softened by Teachers’ Fond Memories of ‘Beautiful Soul’

Alanna Cousins (Marilyn Hantgin photo)
Alanna Cousins (Marilyn Hantgin photo)

For the second week in a row, my roundup of Noozhawk’s top stories of the week finished in the Top 5. For the second week in a row, the lead item was a heartbreaking story of a young woman’s tragic death.

This time the victim was 20-year-old Alanna Cousins, a San Marcos High School graduate and UC Santa Cruz student who died in a car accident while on her way home to Santa Barbara for the weekend.

Cousins and another passenger, Aida Pour Khalhali, 19, of Reseda, were riding in a car driven by Molly Armanino, 19, of Santa Cruz, on the night of April 11. According to the California Highway Patrol, the car ran off Highway 101 near Santa Margarita and rolled over down an embankment. Cousins was killed and her companions were injured. The cause of the accident has not been determined but the CHP says alcohol has been ruled out as a factor.

Our Lara Cooper’s interview with Cousins’ former coaches and teachers at San Marcos High led the NoozWeek Top 5 last week, followed by your new neighbor and mine, sexually violent predator Tibor Karsai; the death of Arroyo Grande dentist Jeff Williams in a Los Olivos motorcycle wreck; my column; and notorious Santa Barbara landlord Dario Pini.

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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