It is now clear why former State Auditor Tom Schweich killed himself: He was emotionally unstable — prone to periods of being “very low” and if not clinically depressed at least subject to bouts of situational depression.
An exhaustive report released late Tuesday by the Clayton, Missouri, police department shows the extent of Schweich’s emotional and physical problems.
In addition to significant emotional dips, Schweich also had a chronic physical condition — Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disorder that typically causes stomach pain, diarrhea and weight loss.
Crohn’s frequently exacts an emotional toll on sufferers and their families. WedMD says: “Having Crohn’s disease can be stressful. The disease affects every part of your life. Seek support from family and friends to help you cope. Get counseling if you need it.”
I never saw Schweich in person, but in every photo I’ve seen, he never appeared healthy; he looked gaunt and pale…No wonder.
Schweich, who was seeking the Republican nomination for governor, shot himself with a .22 caliber pistol the morning of Feb. 26. His wife Kathy was in the same room at the time he shot himself, but she had her back to him and was talking on the phone to a woman with whom Schweich had been speaking before handing the phone to his wife.
In the days leading up to his suicide, Schweich was preoccupied but what he saw as a “whispering campaign” that he was Jewish. He wasn’t Jewish, but he probably thought that if he wasn’t able to stamp out the rumor, it would cost him support and campaign contributions in some quarters.
Schweich wanted to go public and call out Republican Party chairman John Hancock, whom he believed was spreading the unfounded rumors. But all of Schweich’s political advisers, including former U.S. Sen. John C. Danforth, were urging him to hold off.
Schweich was also upset about a radio ad that likened him to the Barney Fife character on the old Andy Griffith TV show.
From Tuesday’s police report, it is easy to deduce that while the whispering campaign and the Barney Fife ad may have caused Schweich significant distress, the underlying factors in his suicide were emotional instability and overall poor health.
Police found more than 20 prescription drugs in Schweich’s home, including prednisone — a steroid that can have uncomfortable side effects — and hydrocodone — a painkiller.
Antidepressants did not appear to be among the drugs.
The strongest evidence that Schweich was not a well man, however, came from police interviews with three people: Schweich’s wife Kathy; Martha Fitz, a woman who is a friend and ally of Danforth and was a friend and adviser to Schweich; and Trish Vincent, Schweich’s chief of staff in the auditor’s office.
Here are excerpts from police interviews with the three women:
“K. Schweich informed me (the interviewing officer) that her husband had talked about killing himself before and had done so while handling his firearms, but that she never thought he would actually act on his statement. She further explained that she knew he would sometimes get depressed…”
(The two lines that immediately follow those words are blacked out in the public version of the police report, so we don’t know what else she might have said about her husband’s depression.)
Fitz told an officer that Schweich could “get depressed from time to time” but, like Kathy Schweich, “she never thought he was at the point of suicide.”
“Although she (Vincent) does not believe that he suffers from depression, she does know that there are times when he seems ‘very low’…She further informed me that she does not believe that any one person or event caused him to kill himself, but that there was an accumulation of numerous things that added stress…and caused him to kill himself. T. Vincent described T. Schweich as a very anxious person who took everything very personal.”
I think the first reaction many people had when they heard about Schweich’s suicide was bafflement at how a veteran politician who was running for governor could get so upset about a false rumor or a below-the-belt radio ad that he would take his own life.
I never bought it. And in a Feb. 27 post, I theorized that clinical depression was the root of Schweich’s problem.
In light of the police report, I believe more than ever that Schweich was clinically depressed. Further, I think he probably avoided seeking a diagnosis or treatment because he knew it would end his chances of becoming governor.
Tom Schweich’s suicide was a terrible tragedy, but, truth be told, he was totally unfit to serve as governor. At least through his suicide he escaped his demons.