EDITORIAL: Help available for those in despair
Sheri Shermeyer’s social media message Monday morning was alternately heartbreaking and horrifying.
The Shrewsbury Township woman’s despair — over a difficult marriage, the loneliness she felt in a new town and the inevitable losses one experiences in life — was palpable.
Shermeyer’s only joy, her reason for living, was her 1-year-old son John, “this little guy asleep in my arms right now.”
However, it quickly became clear where her tormented mind was leading her, that even her little boy was no longer reason enough to go on.
And the 40-year-old had no intention of leaving the child with his father, the man she blamed for her woes. He didn’t deserve a son anyway, Shermeyer wrote.
She posted the message on her public Facebook page at 10:52 a.m. Monday.
About two hours later, state police found the mother and son dead. It appears Shermeyer suffocated her son and then put a gun to her head.
By Wednesday morning, more than 1,700 people had commented on her post, beginning with some who immediately reached out to Shermeyer with words of comfort, offering a shoulder to cry on.
Shermeyer never responded to any of those messages, and at least one of those early readers apparently made the call to police that led them to the crime scene. That news was quickly shared among the commenters.
In the age of social media, this was a public murder/suicide that played out in followers’ newsfeeds.
Shermeyer’s suicide note, which might otherwise have been read only by police and family members, was published by her own hand “for all to see.”
That worries mental health professionals such as Cindy Richard, director of the York County Suicide Prevention Coalition, who fears others as “helpless and hopeless” as she imagines Shermeyer felt might be influenced to do the same by her final words.
There’s reason for concern.
The coalition — based in Shrewsbury, not far from Shermeyer’s home — has identified suicide in southern York County as a “significant issue” over the past several years and has initiated awareness and prevention programming in response.
We pray no one sees this tormented woman’s final act as an answer to their own problems.
As many of Shermeyer’s readers pointed out in the comment section, help was available; many of them said they personally would have helped her had she asked or had they known of her problems.
And as many others declared, none of Shermeyer’s problems justified her taking the life of her child.
The content and timing of her last post indicate less of a cry for help and more of final goodbye. However, on that same page are earlier indications she was possibly a danger to herself.
Last month, Shermeyer reposted a number for the Suicide Prevention Hotline, and in October, she shared a graphic about being "the girl that talks others out of suicide but has a hard time doing the same for herself."
When such hints are posted, said or shared, they should be taken as signs for help, Richard said.
“I think if anyone is feeling like they want to take their own life or have someone in their family who has been contemplating suicide, reach out and get support,” she said.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, there is help available:
York County Suicide Prevention Coalition: (717) 227-0048
WellSpan Behavioral Health Crisis Intervention: 800-673-2496 or (717) 851-5320
TrueNorth Wellness Crisis Intervention Services: 866-325-0339 or (717) 637-7633
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-TALK (8255)