Editor’s note: This story includes discussion of suicide. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, help is available. You can call or text 988 to be connected to the suicide & crisis helpline . Additional resources are listed at the bottom of this story.
TAMPA, Fla. — Arthur Schnurpel’s daughter heard it in his voice. Not his usual soft-spoken tenor, but something different — inconsolable.
Three days earlier, Hurricane Ian had made landfall in Lee County. Walls of water crashed into coastal homes, tearing buildings from foundations, leaving carnage.
But the storm’s damage, it would soon become clear, swelled beyond physical destruction.
Hurricane Ian wrought or worsened widespread mental anguish that, for at least six senior Floridians, ended in their suicides. It’s a tragic toll that researchers warn could worsen.
About 20 miles inland on that September day, Schnurpel had hoisted his wife, who is disabled, onto a makeshift raft as water spilled from the Caloosahatchee River into their home.
For hours, Schnurpel, 70, had stood partially submerged in rising saltwater, wondering if they were going to die. All around him were his life’s possessions, his history, the retirement he’d built in Florida after moving from Indiana. He watched it all melt into a thick brown sludge.
Rescue crews eventually whisked the couple to a hospital, where his wife, who had Stage 5 Parkinson’s, was kept. Schnurpel begged to stay, but was discharged and sent away.
Now it was the first day of October. He didn’t have money or an ID. He didn’t have his glasses, and his truck was flooded. He had managed to keep his phone alive, though, and called his only daughter, Shawnya Scott, at home in the Midwest.
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