Sunday, August 20, 2006


There are a lot of ways to spend public money.
Salaries for people to fight wars.
Ammunition for people to fight wars.
Equipment to keep people "safe" in wars.
Survivor benefits.

Seattle Washington doesn't have enough money for mental health services. Frankly, I'm embarrassed to write that. Seattle is my home town and I love the place even though I'm a devout New Yorker lo, these many years.

I found that statistic when I was searching for information about the death of a woman on Sunday July 16. She had a history of mental illness and called Harborview for help, saying gangs of people were after her. She wasn't sick enough for admittance.

She was Robin Raible. She was my first friend in first grade. My mother has known her mother since third grade.

Robin had perfect pitch. She introduced me to pop music. She was the only person I knew for years who had a canopy bed. She had the coolest name of everyone in our grade. She loved the color turquoise, and when I sign my letters these days with a turquoise pen it's a subtle connection to her.

Our paths diverted; I hadn't seen her in a long time. I can still tell you her phone number, her mom's address, where she was born, and her least favorite knock-knock joke. Those things stay with you a long time-a lifetime now I guess.

Her father was a Unitarian minister so I'm not surprised to hear Matthew 25:40 in my head: "what you do to the least of these, my brethren, you do to me".

Robin Starr Raible
always a star, always


Mindy Tarquini said...

My very deepest condolences.

Unknown said...

I'm so very sorry to read this. It brought tears to my eyes.

I've seen both sides of what I call American's Hidden Shame. One, as a mental patient, and two, as a close friend of another angel taken by this dreadful disease.

It is my hope Ms Reid, that those who pass on like Robin and Mary Jane, have blazed a trail that will one day lead to change, and that their deaths will not go for naught.

Thank you for sharing. My sincere condolences.


Christa M. Miller said...

I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend. What a tragedy for you, her, and her family. :(

Not sure how long you've lived in NYC or if you're familiar with the Willowbrook scandal in the 1970's, but one of my distant cousins had been institutionalized (and died) there. This country as a whole has a long history of mistreating the mentally ill and developmentally disabled.

Change is happening, but it seems so slow and disconnected among all the facets of the "machine"... especially when I read items like this.

Caroline said...

I was moved by this blog.

I am in the UK and my posting yesterday was about self harm and a recent report in the UK.

The power of words. I read your blog earlier and it has stayed with me. Mental illness is still taboo. People are uncomfortable reading about it and there is an overall lack of understanding.

Your blog reached over into the UK and it sent a shiver of familiarity. I

will remember Robin Raible.

Thank you.

Liane Gentry Skye said...

I'm so sorry for your friend, and her peers. It's equally bad in sunny Florida. As the mother of two lovely children with autism, I wake up every single day wondering if the day will come when I can no longer provide for my children's often overwhelming mental health needs.

I'm thinking of Robin tonight.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this - it touched my heart, too. And having family in the Pacific Northwest, I'm disappointed to read this about Seattle. My condolences for your friend and your city.

MG said...

A similar thing happened to a friend of mine. When we were friends she was cool, happy, always having cookie bakes and suchlike. Years later I heard that she'd been found dead at the bottom of a mountain, having escaped from a psychiatric institution. It feels awful, doesn't it? Wondering what went wrong in a life that seemed so full of joy, wondering if something you could have done could possibly have changed the outcome. Mental illness touches all our lives, even indirectly. Have you read 'Norwegian Wood' by Haruki Murakami? It's a wonderful book with a heart-rending suicide at its core.

kitchenmage said...


I, too, was delighted to call Robin my friend, although we had lost touch as well. A chance mention of Dee Dee from a group of friends on a mailing list led me to ask if anyone happened to know Robin. Nobody did, but someone knew her story. Google led me here.

Robin and I met over trauma, or so it might have appeared, and we spent many an afternoon outside her apartment above Lake Union with cool drinks, tall tales, and loud laughter. Lots of laughter.

There were three of us who were tight friends for a few years - the two of them were bridesmaids at my wedding. I have photos packed in a box somewhere with the rest of the detritus of those years. I'll have to see if I can find them. One is of Robin all dressed up, ready to walk out for the ceremony sticking her tongue out like an impudent five year old. I love that one!

Now I am going to go dig up an email address for the third and get in touch. It's been a while, I don't want it to be too long again.

ps What was her least favorite knock knock joke anyway? We were a bit older than knock knock jokes when we met.

pps - when did you leave Seattle? There was a party at her dad's in ~86 (maybe) where he walked in on us playing 'hockey' in the kitchen with raw eggs just in time to catch the 'puck' on his foot. Where it broke. I can still remember Robin near falling over with laughter at it.

Anonymous said...

I only found your site a few days ago, and I've been jumping my way through your blogs, which are quite informative and give me helpful links to check out. Thank you.

This story about your dear friend Robin is touching, and hits close to home. I am sorry for your loss, and many other people's loss, I'm sure, with the death of your friend. I could not follow the link to the Seattle article, perhaps too old, and assumptions are dangerous, I know, but I am guessing that Robin took her own life?

This is such a tragedy, especially as she had sought help and been denied. In addition to the loss of a person I am sure was a wonderful human being, that type of loss deeply scars those closest. I'll share my own loss, if that's okay, because this seems like a good place for it.

In 1988, I was a police officer. My best friend and frequent partner was Eric, a fantastic guy who should never have become a police officer, not because he lacked the skills, but because he was too big-hearted.

Eric and I went from uniform to narcotics together, and we both did well, but Eric...well, Eric carried the weight of bad things with him, while shallower, less kindly folks like me put them aside. Or maybe we just think we do, it's hard to say.

We did a search warrant one Friday night, came back to the office, ate Chinese takeout, and joked around as we finished up our paperwork. The norm. I remember it clearly, even now. Eric teased me about how I'd danced (badly) the last time we'd gone out. He was a brother from The Bronx, and he could really move.

Somehow it came out during our fun that he'd been drinking, which shocked me--Eric never drank. At all. I asked him about it when we had a private moment, asked him if he was okay, but he just shrugged it off. He said he was fine, and asked me to stop by his apartment that weekend, something I did most weekends.

But I was dating someone new at the time, and she had the majority of my attention, as young women do of young men that age, and before I knew it, Monday arrived and I was preparing to do another search warrant. But no Eric.

It could have been a hundred things that made him late, from court to personal time, but my gut told me that something was wrong, and my gut was right. Long story short, Eric killed himself sometime Sunday.

Eric was one hell of a guy, and his suicide is one of the hardest things I've ever dealt with. Death I understand. Death in the line of duty I could have handled, but Eric's suicide and the guilt I carry for not showing up at his apartment have plagued me.

No more than daily, I wonder what might be different if I had taken leave of that woman for a couple of hours to visit with my friend. Would he have waited? Would he have done it anyway? Would he have opened up about what was troubling him (a woman)? Would he be a dad, with children of his own, looking forward to pulling the pin?

I don't have any of these answers, I never will, and that's the worst part. It's like a wound that never heals.

Well, I have rambled, but I did feel your loss, and I wanted to share that. Thanks again for the info.

Dana said...

While awaiting a business appointment today. I just happened to park on the same street as the former Raible residence. Robin and I dated in the 1980s. I was a musician, performing in Pioneer Square, and I met Robin at a show one night. We clicked, and became an item for a while, during that summer.
What I will remember most about Robin was the twinkle in her eye, and the way she would look a person in the eye, with a directness that seemed like she she could look into your soul. Perhaps it was because of her striking clear blue eyes.
I also will always remember that she had a necklace with a little pendant of a jewel encrusted Robin bird dangling from it. She delighted in the fact that her middle name was “Starr”, and she would mischievously add, “because i AM one!” She wasn’t really a musician, but she had a fine singing voice, and she sang with confidence.
When I heard of her passing, i 2006, I remembered a photographic portrait that I had taken of her during the time we were dating. Wondering if I could still locate that photo after all the years that had gone by, I opened up the first box I found in my basement, and there it was! I sent the photo to her mother, Dee Dee, as it was the way that I wanted to remember Robin: young, playful, happy and full of life. Dee Dee phoned me shortly after, to thank me for the photo, and to tell me a little bit about what happened to Robin.
Apparently, she had been suffering from mental illness for quite some time, and during a delusional episode, she had been convinced that people were chasing her. And her attempt to run away from “them“, she ran off the top of a nine story building in downtown Seattle. She fell to her death.
These memories make me sad, but I’m holding onto the happy times that I spent with Robin, and I’m still thinking about that twinkle in her eye…