Alex Jacobsen, 26, took a box knife to his neck at a faith-based treatment center in Iowa, “slicing his neck and throat again and again” ten days after he forfeited the use of his medication in accordance with the rules of the program.
Jacobsen had been battling depression and anxiety for years, going in and out of various treatment centers and trying a revolving door of different medications with no apparent success.
Desperate, he checked himself into a free discipleship program called Dream Center, operated by two Assembly of God pastors whose goal is to tackle mental illnesses with the power of “prayer, Scripture memorization and developing a closer relationship with God,” according to the program materials.
The program also requires participants to “withdraw from any and all substance dependence voluntarily and without the use of medication.” Jacobsen immediately stopped taking his prescription of Klonopin to conform to the program’s rules and replaced them with amino acids and GABA supplements, in addition to Bible study.
Rev. Nick Hanges, whose only credentials are an online certification from the International Institute of Faith-Based Counseling to be a “Christian counselor,” required Jacobsen to sign a form upon checking into the clinic, which released the counselors of “any liability whatsoever arising as a result of death, injury or illness.”
Jacobsen tried to express his concerns about getting off of his prescription drugs to Rev. Hanges, who replied “Don’t back out of this again, man… Trust me. This is what you need to do and you know that. I will help you get off the medications.”
Days into the program, Jacobsen said he “wasn’t feeling right and was suicidal.” Hanges said these feelings were temporary.
Less than two weeks into the program, Jacobsen attempted suicide in the clinic’s bathroom with a box cutter he found on a cart. While he was fortunately found and treated in time, “Five minutes more and he would have died,” according to paramedics.
Medical professionals told Jacobsen’s family that suddenly quitting his medications could have killed him. The Society for the Study of Addiction lists withdrawal symptoms from Klonopins, a medication used to combat both anxiety and seizures, as insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, psychosis and suicidal thoughts. Jacobsen exhibited all of these behaviors leading up to his suicide attempt, but Rev. Hanges either ignored them or wasn’t properly trained to respond to them.
Jacobsen’s father blames the clinic, but also the state of Iowa for allowing these kind of clinics to get around state laws that would otherwise forbid them from operating without a proper license.
“They do not have the medical or psychological training to do what they’re doing,” Jacobsen’s father said. “If the state doesn’t require some sort of oversight, this will happen to other families.”
by Nathan Wellman
May 10, 2016
Young Man Attempts Suicide After Clinic Replaces His Medication With Bible Study