I met Steve Arkin 12 years ago while working on a case for one of my clients. Steve Arkin is a neurologist and until recently practiced at Saint Luke’s Hospital on the Plaza. His wife, Karen, was also a neurologist in the same group.
I don’t remember much about the case, but I do remember meeting with Dr. Arkin before his deposition was taken and I do recall that he was very cordial and helpful even though my case involved a claim of malpractice against an orthopedic spine surgeon. We later took Dr. Arkin’s deposition, and he was most helpful to my client. The case settled, and Dr. Arkin’s willingness to be forthcoming in the deposition was helpful in resolving the case.
I did not realize at the time that Dr. Arkin did some consulting work in medical-legal cases. One of my favorite neurologists was Bernard Abrams, who also practiced in Kansas City. I had used Dr. Abrams as an expert witness on several cases and even faced him as an opposing expert on occasion. I plan to write another column about some of my experiences with Dr. Abrams, clearly one of the great physicians in the history of Kansas City. Dr. Abrams is now retired and is not available to consult, so I needed another physician to help me when neurological issues arise. I had heard about Dr. Arkin, so I contacted him and he was willing to consult with me on a couple of cases.
He is no longer practicing at Saint Luke’s and has moved to a teaching hospital in Dayton, Ohio. He decided to cut back on his practice so he and his wife can work every other week rather than work full time. He is an expert in treating stroke patients, and strokes don’t always occur during daylight hours on weekdays, so there are many nights and weekends in the hospital. He and his wife decided that it was time to slow down a bit and are doing that.
While becoming acquainted with Dr. Arkin, I learned that he and his wife have established a foundation with another family to address suicide prevention in children. Their nonprofit organization is called SPEAK UP. Its mission is to reduce the stigma around mental health while bringing suicide prevention awareness and education to youth. Unfortunately, both families have been devastated by suicide of children. They have decided to start this organization to help other families and kids from the devastating effects of depression.
The Arkins’ son had been suffering from depression for several years. Jason Arkin was a brilliant young man. He graduated in the top 1% of his high school class and was a National Merit Scholar. He won several awards for his debating skills in high school. He continued his education at the engineering school at Northwestern University. While there, at the end of his junior year, he died by suicide at the age of 20. Jason suffered from depression, a disease that affects one in four of us.
For nine years he was treated with medications, psychotherapy and transcranial magnetic stimulation, but on May 19, 2015 “Jason’s mind told him he was using more of the world’s resources than he was able to give in return.” The Arkins knew his death was due to his disease and so in his memory they have continued to fight for him to eliminate the stigma and to promote awareness and understanding of mental illness. They decided that they “must speak up to save others.”
Every year they sponsor a Speak Up Walk to raise money to help educated kids. Their most recent efforts raised $185,000. They have started a pilot program in the Blue Valley School District high schools, and plan to provide funding in this school year for a program entitled Sources of Strength in two Blue Valley middle schools, Olathe East High School, Olathe Northwest High School and Raymore-Peculiar High School. Sources of Strength is a peer led program to help bring hope and help to other students suffering from mental illness.
After learning of Dr. Arkin’s efforts, we decided to donate to his organization, and I promised him I would spread the word to Eastern Jackson County. I hope school administrators and counselors will reach out to this organization to see how it can impact their schools. It is an educational process that has undoubtedly helped countless students and saved lives.
Suicide has affected my own life. My nephew took his life several years ago. My brother-in-law also took his own life. Thus, we understand the agony of this catastrophic event. I often think about that hot summer day in August of 2002 when my nephew decided he could not handle his disease any more. When I think of that day I remember my father sitting in a lawn chair under a shade tree in the front yard of my brother’s home helplessly trying to understand why. I also remember the long night-time drive back from Breckenridge, Colorado with my wife and her daughter after learning about her brother.
The goal of Speak Up is to avoid these painful experiences. The website for this organization is http://speakup.us. They are there to help with many resources. Let us fight the disease of depression together.
Bob Buckley is an attorney in Independence, www.wagblaw.com . Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.