By: Deborah P. Faucette, PharmD
This is my niece, Seantella Cottner. She was born April 6, 1986, and we lost her on January 9, 2020. She was found by her wife deceased in the bathroom. She was my only niece.
Seanie faithfully served eight years in the Army on foreign and domestic soil as a Health Care Specialist, Emergency Room Supervisor, Medical Evacuation Supervisor and Combat Medic prior to her medical retirement in 2015. She was also part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
We did not know the extent of her PTSD until she arrived back home from Afghanistan. She struggled with doing things during her deployment that went against her faith. She was 21 at the time of her tour.
She was on over 15 different medications administered for psychosis, insomnia, depression and pain. Although I did not prescribe these medications to her, as a Pharmacist I felt responsible for death. I intervened multiple times to help her, but my attempts were unsuccessful. I just did not know what “enough” intervention looked like.
One of the most difficult tasks I have ever had to do was retrieve my niece’s dog tags and place them around my sister’s neck. I also placed my highest military achievement medals into her casket.
We must keep in mind that we never know what someone is struggling with on a daily basis. Mental illness is real.
Because of this experience, I have learned the value of checking in with friends and loved ones. Going forward, we all need to do a better job by simply giving a word of encouragement to each other. Just a simple act like that could be someone’s saving grace, because not all wounds are visible.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, please reach out for help. You can call Oklahoma City Indian Clinic’s Behavioral Health department at (405) 948-4900 ext. 610 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Other emergency numbers you can reach include: calling 911, calling or texting Suicide Helpline at 988, calling OK County Crisis Center at (405) 945-6215 and texting the Crisis Textline at 741-741 with the word “Native.”