Mental illness and suicide are often difficult topics to discuss, but following the death of his wife, Alabama’s attorney general is advocating for more conversations.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall addressed what he called “half-truths” and rumors about his wife’s recent death from suicide in a talk on Monday, and even took some time to share the story of her struggle with mental illnesses.
A heartbreaking tragedy
According to Fox News, Marshall’s wife — 45-year-old Bridgette Gentry Marshall — was found dead on Sunday morning of a self-inflicted gunshot wound while staying with a female relative in Murfreesboro, TN.
Marshall, who was appointed attorney general in 2017 — after his predecessor, Luther Strange, moved temporarily to the U.S. Senate to fill the seat vacated by former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions — and had been campaigning to serve full time as attorney general in this year’s election.
The stress of the campaign combined with his wife’s personal struggles — which included anxiety and depression, as well as chronic migraines, painful digestive disorders and an addiction to opioid painkillers — had compelled her to shy away from the limelight and spend time with her relatives in Tennessee, according to the attorney general.
“For me, I wonder whether or not if I wasn’t attorney general, would she still be alive?” Marshall said. “Whether I hadn’t chosen public service, would she still be here today? And I’ll be haunted by that for the rest of my life.”
“She was loved”
Marshall also spoke about how his wife had returned home briefly around the time of her birthday and the June 5 primary election, and seemed to have achieved her prior level of “happiness,” but “then for whatever reason something changed and we don’t know what.”
He recalled how in their final phone call together his wife had stated, “I’m tired of being tired and I just want to go,” and noted in tears: “I told her how she was loved. As a guy who professionally is supposed to convince people with words to do something, I couldn’t reach her.”
Marshall also shared an encouraging note his wife had written for him just weeks prior to ending her life, in which she had written: “I knew you would pull this off… You are the man for the job in Alabama. I love you more than you will ever know and couldn’t be more proud how you handled it all as you always do with grace.”
“That is the woman I will celebrate,” Marshall said of his late wife. “Please allow us to celebrate that life and to no longer have to discuss her death.” Marshall also asked for privacy so both he and his 20-year-old daughter could mourn the loss of their wife and mother in peace.
This was no doubt an incredibly tough news conference for Marshall, and a discussion he’d probably rather not have held, but he nevertheless showed guts in going through with it and sharing his wife’s tragic tale.
We offer Marshall and his daughter and the rest of their family our sincere condolences for their loss, and commend him for bravely addressing that loss in a public forum to help further the tough conversation about mental illnesses and suicide.