Features Jul 17, 2013 at 4:00 am

Joel Reuter's Friends—and the Staff of a Neighborhood Bar Where He Used to Hang Out—Remember What He Was Like Before Illness Struck

Kelly O


Thanks for following up on this story. My heart goes out to his loved ones. I'm terribly sorry he's gone, and very grateful to him for not firing his weapon sooner. We can't know how long he may have struggled to keep from pulling that trigger in one direction or another.

This morning the magnificent Stephen Fry tweeted a link to what looks like an excellent BBC series, "Diaries of a Broken Mind". It's young people using handhelds to document what it's like to be growing up with mental health issues. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0377w9h
This is really top-notch -- thanks for treating this issue like a complex tragedy and not a sensationalistic scare piece.
Beautiful, beautiful piece. Thank you for writing this
Wow, this is heartbreaking. But thank you for telling Joel's story with so much compassion.
What a fantastic article. Thank you. I'll always remember Joel for being the first to show up to our BBQ"s and the last to leave, everyone liked him a lot, he loved his friends and his job, even though I didn't know him all that well, he was always fun to be around, and would always make the extra effort to smile and wave as I was passing by his office. Damn, just way to soon Joel... way to soon.
Thank you for this story. I am so sorry that this had to happen and I hope that one day we can help people with mental illness better than we do.
Thank you for telling this story and for reminding us of this man's humanity. My deepest sympathies to Joel's family and family of friends -- and to Joel himself. My hope is that the unnecessary loss of this life -- and in-depth follow up such as this article -- will open paths toward preventing this from happening again.
This is journalism, at its finest. Really insightful, really moving. Thank you.
This was excellent. Thanks for filling out the picture of what happened that morning.

Did you get a chance to talk to an oncologist about the possible mental health impacts of chemotherapy? Or a hospital representative on why it is so difficult to get someone mental health care against their will?
Thank you for taking the time to share the real Joel with those of us who did not have the opportunity to know him. He sounds like an amazing individual and my thoughts go out to his friends and family.
RIP, Joel.

I'm so sorry you had to go through this.

You were lucky that you had friends who stood by you, some of us are promptly dropped by our friends when we get ill.

I do so hope you are in a better place now.
Nice piece, Cienna. Thank you.
That was a very heart-felt and well written article. I didn't know him but through your article I felt like I had. May he rest in peace and may others get the support they need.
This is a really wonderful piece, Cienna. I'm curious as to whether or not his doctors knew he was on medication for bipolar disorder before they started his chemo & other medications? If they knew it, they should have been aware of any potential interactions. If they didn't know about it, they either didn't ask (which is fucked up), or Joel refused to tell them. The last one doesn't make any sense--it sounds like he was always conscientious about taking his meds and at least a few people knew about it, so it doesn't seem like something he would withhold from a doctor. Which makes me think the doctor fucked something up, and that is just awful.
Well done... and indeed without sensationalism! Too many times we read what journalists think we want to read and that's the gory details. Not at all... behind every suicide there is a person who is struggling and those left behind. I work in suicide prevention, as well as being a survivor of my brothers suicide, and I thank you.

If you or someone you love is in distress please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) - we do care...
Thank you for filling out the details of Joel's life and his ultimate tragic death. Well-written, insightful and heartbreaking backstory of success, friendship, living well, barely living and mental illness.
Thank you for delving into this. I knew Joel as a former co-worker and it was beyond shocking to hear about the tragedy. I feel so relieved knowing that he was surrounded by people who loved him and that they tried to help him.
Wow! Thank you. I have a relative who is a friend of Joel's. The man shot by police most definitely was not the friend she described to me, or that smiles out from her Facebook photos. Members of our family have struggled with mental health issues over the years as well. Thank you Cienna for this beautiful piece. For sharing the Joel known and love my many with the rest of the world. HUGS!!!
This is so fucking sad.
Thank you so much for this story. I didn't know Joel but this made me wish I had.
At some point, Joel bought a handgun without telling his friends. (ATF is currently tracing the sale of the weapon, as it should have been illegal for Joel to purchase the gun after being involuntarily held for mental-health evaluations.)
I think you need to investigate on this point a little further. In your article you mentioned involuntary holds, which typically last about 3 days. These are not what triggers the firearm ban. It is an involuntary commitment that does that (which means that it is ordered by a judge in a court held at the psychiatric hospital, typically after the hold expires and further treatment is required but the patient does not voluntarily accept it). Additionally, hospitals are not always good at getting the data put into the NICS database. So was the gun legal for him to buy at the time? Quite possibly, the answer may be yes.
Thank you so very much for this piece. My heart goes out to Joel and his friends that rallied around him with such love and loyalty. Julia asked a great question that I will paraphrase: Exactly what will it take to finally do something more- something better, about mental illness? Blessings on your journey, Joel.
Thank you so very much for this piece. My heart goes out to Joel and his friends that rallied around him. Julia asked a great question that I will paraphrase: Exactly what will it take to finally do something more- something better, about mental illness? Blessings on your journey, Joel.
Thank you Cienna for this heartfelt, beautifully sad story about a young man who most definitely got lost in the system - medical and mental health. Our country is embarrassingly lacking when it comes to mental illness, even for those seeking help. I have experienced severe depression and will always have to take meds to keep it at bay. I've been blessed with good providers who took me seriously right from the start and who have given my life back to me. Without their support and that of my husband's, I suspect I would now be dead as well.

It just breaks my heart that a truly good and loving person like Joel would fall between the cracks and end up choosing death over life primarily because of his bi-polar disorder. Yes, he had some responsibility to seek assistance himself, but remembering back to my really bad days, it can be almost impossible to ask for help when you are, as I described it, at the very bottom of a deep well facing downward.

He was blessed to have a large support group of friends who saw the real Joel and tried to get help for him. The comment 'he had to WANT help' is not at all valid! Wanting and asking are such two very different things.

Thank you Cienna, for telling us Joel's real story - who he really was and not the sad person who chose death over the pain he was caught up in. I will remember this story for a very long time and, given the chance, I will fight for someone who is in need of help, even if they are resistant to it. If there aren't ways to accomplish that, there needs to be news laws, new ways of seeing mental illness, so help can be gotten anyway.

May you rest in peace Joel and may your way be freer now as your soul moves on. God Bless you and all those who love this young man.
Thanks, Cienna. This is a great piece. What a heartbreaking story. So much waste in this world.
Thank you Cienna.
Wow Cienna, amazing article, I'm teary and very grateful for your portrayal of mental illness as an important part of many lives. Thank you.
Thank you for sharing Joel's story!
What's really scary is that this is not someone who "fell through the cracks." It sounds like Joel had a strong community of friends who cared deeply about him and worked hard to get him the help he needed, and yet it wasn't enough.
A beautiful article about a tragic situation. It is so rare to find such a thing. Nicely done. Thank you.
Thank you for this excellent story, Cienna. I was halfway through it when I realized, "Oh it's that guy--the nut case who was killed on Capitol Hill after the police stand off."
Thank you for making him a person, and I apologize to the universe for having written him off as a nut-case, and I am so sad for his shortened life. It has helped to make me think about people I don't know, but condemn anyway.
Thank you for writing this. I have bipolar disorder, so... I don't know. Just thank you for writing this.
NOT COOL for posting that spam in THIS comment section.

When people are discussing the tragic end of a good person's life, it's morally wrong to try to sell commercial products in that thread. Such threads should be exempt from spamming.

Try to show some decency in your decisions about where to post stuff. Whoever you are, you have to be a better person than this.
Thanks Cienna for this compassionate article. My deepest sympathy to Joel's family and friends.No compassion was shown by the SPD cops who ended Joel's life.Even bears and other wild animals are shot with tranquilizers instead of just blown away like what happened to Joel.The two cops, Chad Zentner and Jeff Geoghagan, were heavily protected and had high powered rifles that could have had tranquilizers in them instead or Joel could have just been left in his condo. Jeff Geoghagan shot DeOntrel Davis, a black teenager, in the back of the head in 2002. DeOntrel was fleeing the police. The back of his head had to be pieced together for his funeral. This was clearly murder. For more information on the national and local epidemic(in Washington state) of police brutality go to: October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality Seattle facebook page.
The fact that nine out of ten news organizations would talk only about Joel's final minutes of life instead of all the goodness that came before says a lot for The Stranger addressing the human and not the affliction. Thank you.
Nicely done. Thank you for posting this story.

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