In a 2006 Deseret News series about teen suicide, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and his daughter, Danielle, talked about her struggles. At the time, she was 13 years old. Following is an excerpt from the story that appeared in 2006:
Teen suicide is an odd issue for an attorney general's time, but Shurtleff has a personal stake in the topic. Her name is Danielle.
His adopted daughter deals with several psychological disorders that induce suicidal thoughts.
Dressed in black jeans, black skater shoes and a Green Day hoodie, Danielle Shurtleff exudes attitude. Her brown hair falls lazily onto her shoulders. She can be a brawler one minute, a sweetheart the next. But the gleam in her eye suggests more puff than huff.
Thirteen-year-old Danielle says she has contemplated suicide for all kinds of reasons:
When her parents didn't listen. When her parents took a sibling's side. When her parents thought they understood but didn't. When someone was mean to her. When friends turned their backs on her. When something didn't go right.
Those are common occurrences in a teenager's life. Most might be upset or angry for a couple of days. But most aren't born with fetal alcohol spectrum syndrome. They aren't diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression and oppositional defiant disorder. Danielle deals with all of those. She goes through periods of inconsolable sadness and uncontrollable rage.
Shurtleff held her late one night while she sobbed, "I want to die. I want to die." On another evening, he wrestled a knife away from her during a youth activity at their LDS Church ward. He cut his hand in the process.
Danielle has learned to grapple with suicidal thoughts and come out on top. She's learned to defuse the bad thoughts that come fast and hard some days: "Why am I living? What's the point if my life is so bad? Why am I living?"
Now she can answer herself.
"If I kill myself, I won't be able to ride my dirt bike."
"If I kill myself, I'll hurt the two young neighbor kids who look up to me."
"If I kill myself, maybe my friends will think suicide is the answer."
"Maybe I should wait to see how things come out."16 comments on this story
A regimen of antidepressants, antipsychotics and ADHD medication keep her stable. Therapy has taught her coping strategies: Stop. Think. Act. Review.
She shares some of her new techniques with her dad. Recently, the two were driving together, and Shurtleff was struggling with the complexities of his BlackBerry. He was mad and ready to heave it out the window.
"Daddy, stop and think about this," Danielle said. "You have some choices here.
— Dennis Romboy, Lucinda Dillon Kinkead