Suicide victim sent out pleas for help | NevadaAppeal.com
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Suicide victim sent out pleas for help

by Maggie O'Neill

Over the past several months, Gardnerville resident Richard Mackey told his mother repeatedly he planned to take his own life. He couldn’t stop his addiction.

Mackey carried out his threat on Oct. 24 after taking several hostages at Carson Valley Pharmacy. His mother, Joan, and sister, Kelly, say he sought help for his Xanax addiction, but no one could save him.

“It was so bad he couldn’t stand to drive by a pharmacy,” his mother said.

Joan said he appeared to be preparing for death. His e-mails were cleaned out. All that remained were advertisements for Xanax. She said he didn’t fill his prescriptions that way. He went to pharmacies. A lot of them, she said.

Mackey moved to the area in September 2001 from Alabama, where he had lost an airline industry job.

Joan and Kelly describe 38-year-old Mackey as a man stricken with anxiety. Kelly said she thinks his nerves became frayed after fighting addiction to another drug – methamphetamine.

The airline industry forced him into a recovery program for methamphetamine, she said. Xanax, generic Alprazolam, is a benzodiazapene, a drug that has a tranquilizing effect. It is used to treat anxiety, according to a pharmacist at Carson Valley Pharmacy.

It can also be used to treat depression and panic disorder, and it has a high likelihood of abuse and addiction.

Mackey had been to Nevada Mental Health twice, to Sierra Recovery, Carson Valley Medical Center, Al-Anon meetings and church, Joan said. He was finding religion and discovering God.

She said one doctor told Mackey: “You’ve been here twice for suicide. You are not suicidal.”

His sister, who says “tough love” by a mother is hard, wrote Mackey a letter offering to support him if he got help.

She said she couldn’t handle him, that he was too intense to be around.

“Someone seriously needed to enforce (treatment) on him because he couldn’t do this to himself,” she said.

“He needed professional help,” Joan said. “We gave him so much support as a family.”

Soon after moving to Carson Valley, Mackey received Xanax from an acquaintance, Joan said. He developed an addiction, and changes were obvious when he took the drug, his sister said.

“It was like he was on stage,” she said. “It was like he would get all your attention.”

“He slurred his speech (when he took too much Xanax),” Joan said. “He couldn’t hold still. How could they say he does not have a problem? How can they not recognize that?”

This summer Mackey married a school friend he had known for six years, Joan said. His Xanax addiction was strong, though, and he was taking a lot.

At the time of his death, a notebook of Mackey’s was found with two pages of places to contact for help. But he was never held at any center for more than 72 hours, she said.

Why Mackey fell through the mental-health crack, if that is what happened, is not clear.

Records are private under federal law.

An adult may be held in a hospital or institution against their will if they are threatening suicide, said Dan Embree of Douglas County Mental Health.

“If an individual is judged to be dangerous to themselves or others … that’s one of the criteria for involuntary hospitalization,” Embree said. “If they’re dangerous to themselves, it doesn’t matter if it’s related to prescription drugs.”

Kat Bigongiari, an employee of Family Support Council, said there are many options for people seeking drug treatment.

She said Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings can help a prescription drug abuser.

“You don’t have to be an alcoholic (to attend a meeting),” she said. “No one looks at you differently if you say you have a prescription drug addiction.”

She said someone seeking help will find it and that people leaving a facility are handed an action plan when they leave.

If Mackey had been convicted of a crime, he could have been ordered into a drug treatment program. In Douglas County, the drug court program requires people to attend counseling and kick their addiction to get a felony conviction removed from their record.

Mackey was to go to trial for domestic abuse last week. Except for that pending case, the only other item on his record was a mental health call made by his mom Aug. 14 because he had taken up to 60 pills.

“I think if he were destitute or homeless, he might have been able to get more help,” Joan said.