Suicide shows human toll of Point steel mill closure
Wednesday, 16 January 2013 15:23

Local resources are available for workers in crisis

by Nicole Rodman

Many local residents and former steelworkers are still in shock as they mourn the untimely death of former Sparrows Point steelworker Robert Jennings.
    The 59-year-old spent most of his 35-year career working as a crane inspector and ironworker at the steel mill before losing his job last June.
    Unemployed and having trouble finding work, Jennings was reportedly despondent over his future prospects when he took his own life at his Pennsylvania home on Jan. 5.
    Upon hearing of the death of their fellow steelworker, many of Jenning’s former co-workers have expressed both sadness and anger at the circumstances that drove Jennings to take his own life.
    One posting on the unofficial United Steelworkers Local 9477 Facebook page echoed many union member’s sentiments.
    “The people who destroyed our lives should be forced to see what their greed has done to men like this who have lost not only a job but their identity, leaving them desperate and hopeless,” the posting read.

In the wake of Jenning’s suicide, many former steelworkers and union officials fear that this desperation and hopelessness will lead to more self-inflicted deaths like Jennings’.
    “The younger guys can start over. But the long-term employees at Sparrows Point – the guys that came out of the old school – their attitude is, ‘I provide, I provide for my family.’ And now they can’t provide,” USW 9477 vice-president Chris MacLarion told the website Baltimore Brew on Jan. 7.
    For steelworkers and others feeling despondent or suicidal over the loss of their job, however, there are many mental health resources that can provide assistance at little or no cost.
    According to the Baltimore County Bureau of Behavioral Health, anyone considering suicide should immediately call the free Baltimore County Crisis Hotline at 410-931-2214, Baltimore Crisis Response at 410-931-2214 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
    For those facing depression who are not in immediate crisis, there are a number of mental health resources available across the area.
    According to Brian Hepburn, director of the Maryland Mental Hygiene Administration, the Maryland Public Mental Health System (PMHS) can provide mental health care to those in need.
    Under the Maryland PMHS, those without insurance can obtain free or discounted mental health services.
    For more information on PMHS, call 1-800-888-1965 or visit the web at
    Another resource available to those seeking mental health services in Maryland is the Network of Care at http://
    Initially started in California, Network of Care is an online service that provides information on mental health and local services available to area residents.
    “The Network of Care has available resources by jurisdiction so individuals may go to the Internet site and find the service that fits their needs,” Hepburn told The Eagle, adding, “Services available are based on insurance and ability to pay.”
    For these types of services, health care providers will usually work with the patient to determine payment options.
    Options include low-cost insurance programs such as the Maryland Health Insurance Program (MHIP), which provides insurance to Maryland residents unable to obtain it elsewhere.
    For more information on MHIP, visit
    Under the Primary Adult Care program, those making a limited amount of income may receive free  or discounted mental health services and prescriptions.
    To apply, call 1-800-226-2142 or visit
    Another resource, the Baltimore chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), offers information on local programs for those seeking help for depression and other mental health issues.
    NAMI also offers local support groups and discounted prescription drug costs.
    For more information, call 410-435-2600 or email info@
    In eastern Baltimore County, a number of groups also offer mental health support and assistance to those in need.
    At Alliance, Inc., those seeking mental health treatment are provided with therapy and outpatient care and treatment.
    For more information on Alliance, Inc. programs, call 410-574-7700 or visit
    It is the hope of USW 9477 union officials and area mental health professionals that unemployed steelworkers and others facing depression and suicidal thoughts seek help before it is too late.
    As Robert Jennings’ daughter, Jeanne, wrote to Baltimore Brew last week, “Please, I urge you to seek help because suicide is not the answer. I would give anything just to hold my father again and tell him how much I love him and tell him that he was my hero.”


•  Baltimore County Crisis Hotline:  410-931-2214
•  Baltimore Crisis Response:  410-931-2214
•  National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  1-800-273-8255
•  Maryland Public Mental Health System (PMHS):  1-800-888-1965 or
•  Network of Care:
•  Maryland Health Insurance Program:
•  National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Baltimore chapter:  410-435-2600 or
•  Alliance, Inc.:  410-574-7700 or