Husband of Taconic Crash's Diane Schuler Sues N.Y. State

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Self-Medication Led to Disorientation

Psychiatrist Bursztajn said Schuler was the worst kind of perfectionist who learned to self medicate. Had she sought help, the tragedy might have been averted.

"The problem is, it doesn't work for very long," Bursztajn said. "Eventually, the fear, the shame and the humiliation come back."

The day of the accident, Schuler likely was stressed about running late and tried to ease her physical pain with alcohol and marijuana, which led to disorientation and dissociation. "She lost touch with reality," he speculated.

Most experts ruled out suicide. "That is not consistent with who Diane was," Bursztajn said. "She was not someone who gave up."

Dr. Carol Bernstein, associate professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine, said, "the reality is anybody can snap."

"A psychiatric disorder can affect all of us, even people who look like they are functioning very well."

She cites the case of Leshanda Armstrong, a New York mother of four who drove her minivan into the frigid waters of the Hudson River in April, killing herself and three of her small children.

"People said she seemed so normal," Bernstein said. "People have an idea in their heads that in order for someone to engage in bizarre behavior or take a risk or harm people, or attempt suicide, or, God forbid, even what's going on in Norway, it means they are weird or strange, and people distance themselves."

She warns that not all those who have upsets in life will end up like Schuler. But many are too embarrassed to admit psychic pain.

"Someone may be struggling and not feel they can tell the people they love until they are pushed to the point," Bernstein. said "People suffer in silence."

The lesson learned, she said, is that mental problems should not be stigmatizing and those who struggle should "feel free to communicate so we can see warning signs.

"When people feel burdened and depressed and hopeless," she said, "it's not shameful to reach out and get help."

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