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Man killed by train 'wanted to be free'
Family says he suffered from mental illness

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Joshua Philip Bunn used to enjoy reading books, and he loved to watch archaeology programs on the History Channel.

He wanted to attend Georgia Southern University after he graduated from Jonesboro High School in 1996. But, bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia gradually robbed him of those interests and goals, according to his grandmother, Louise K. Bunn.

As the disorders progressed, Joshua Bunn found it harder and harder to focus his concentration.

Bunn, 30, died Friday when he was run over by a train in Jonesboro. His grandmother said the family believes Bunn took his own life to escape his disorders. "In our hearts, we believe he knew what he was doing," she said. "He was just tired, and wanted to be free."

Jonesboro Police Maj. Tim Jessup said there is an ongoing investigation into the Jonesboro resident's death.

A memorial service for Bunn will be held today, at 1 p.m., at Pope Dickson and Son Funeral Home's Jonesboro Chapel, 168 N. McDonough Street. There will be a one-hour visitation period from noon until the beginning of the service.

Louise Bunn said a favorite memory of her grandson was when he would pick lilies and roses and bring them to her. "We were very close," she said. On one occasion, Joshua told his grandmother, "When I grow up and become rich, I'm going to buy you a new house and a new car," Louise Bunn said.

Jimmy Mayo, a family friend, who knew Joshua when he was a young child, said Bunn was a "good, bright young kid" in his youth. Mayo said Bunn often looked after his sister, Nicole. "At that point in time, you wouldn't have thought anything bad was going to happen to him, at least not like what he experienced as he got older," Mayo said.

Mayo moved away from Jonesboro when Bunn was about 8, but he returned to the area a few years ago. Mayo said he last spoke with Bunn about a year ago. "He seemed real nice at the time, although he was real quiet," Mayo said.

However, a year after his high school graduation, the bipolar disorder, and paranoid schizophrenia had begun to take over, Louise Bunn said. "We all felt helpless, like there was nothing we could do," she added.

Bunn had his personal demons, too.

"He just felt like nobody liked him, but of course that wasn't true, because his family loved him," his grandmother said. Louise Bunn also said her grandson had a difficult time holding jobs, because his mental illnesses hampered his ability to concentrate on tasks. He had not been employed in several years, she said.

The federal government's National Institute of Mental Health lists three types of symptoms (positive, negative and cognitive) for schizophrenia on its web site. Positive symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, thought and movement disorders. Negative symptoms are a loss, or decrease in, a person's ability to start plans, speak, show emotion, or enjoy life.

Cognitive symptoms include attention, memory, planning and organizing problems. The National Institute of Mental Health's web site says the latter symptoms are the hardest to diagnose, but they are also the most damaging to a person's lifestyle.

The institute also lists 25 symptoms of bipolar disorder. The symptoms are broken down by manic and depressed "episodes."

Symptoms of a manic episode include: Increased energy or restlessness; excessively high, euphoric moods; extreme irritability; racing thoughts and fast talking; concentration difficulties; needing little sleep; "unrealistic" beliefs about abilities and powers; poor judgment; spending sprees; long periods of unusual behavior; increased sexual drive; drug abuse; aggressive behavior, and denial that anything is wrong.

Symptoms of a depressed episode include: Long periods of sadness and anxiety; pessimism; feelings of worthlessness; loss of interest in activities a person once enjoyed; decreased energy; restlessness; excessive sleeping; change in appetite; chronic pain which is not caused by physical illness or injury, and thoughts of death.

Bunn's grandmother said he was recently worried about what would happen to him if he died. She said he was "very religious" and asked her about the afterlife. "He was so tormented," his grandmother said. "He would always ask me how it would be if he died. He wanted to know if God would accept him, and I would always tell him,'Yes.'"

Bunn's grandmother also said she believes that the state and federal governments ought to do more to help people with mental illnesses. "Our state and national governments need to provide a place where these people can receive constant help with their problems," she said. "They need to have a place where they would feel a little independent."

Louise Bunn said her grandson received medication and counseling from the Clayton Center's mental health facility in Riverdale. She said it appeared to be having a positive effect on her grandson, but she added that medication is just not enough.

"If you have a broken leg, you can go get it fixed, but it seems there isn't a lot of help out there for people with mental illnesses," she said. She urged families to watch out for signs of mental illness to prevent a repeat of what happened to her grandson.

David Bunn, Joshua's uncle, said while the family is struggling to deal with Joshua's death, the deceased young man's relatives take comfort in the fact that Joshua no longer battles his demons.

"I know he's in heaven now, because he already went through hell," he said.

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On the net:

National Institute of Mental Health: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/