After son's body found in field, mom hopes others can learn from Colter's struggle with mental illness
FARGO - The day after Christmas, Colter Dallman went to Guatemala expecting to be crucified.
He didn't tell his parents, knowing that if he did, they would have grounds to commit him to a hospital - again - for treatment of his mental illness, his mother said.
But when the 27-year-old arrived in the Central American nation, he found no cross to bear and no one willing to crucify him as the savior he believed himself to be. He thought about staying anyway, but for his parents' sake he returned to Fargo Dec. 31.
Four days later, his car was found abandoned on Interstate 29 south of the city. Authorities conducting a ground search discovered his body Monday in a nearby field.
Carolyn Woodruff, of Beulah, said she and her husband, Morgan Dallman, had "a pretty good idea" about what had happened to their son. What authorities found Monday - including a suicide note in Dallman's wallet - gave them the closure they needed, she said.
"I'm sure that he had no intention of creating this much trouble and expected that someone would be notified when his car was left there and that he would be easily found," she said. "But it didn't - like many things in his life - did not work out the way he had envisioned it to."
She said she hopes his story can raise awareness of mental illness and en-courage those struggling with it to take advantage of the treatment available.
"We're hoping that mental illness can be seen by the community as a disease like any other disease that doesn't have to be hidden in the closet, and the affected people don't have to go through the torment of wondering how others are judging them and can have the support that's available to them if they can open up about their problems," Woodruff said.
Fargo police on Tuesday preliminarily identified the body as that of Dallman. An autopsy will take place Thursday in Bismarck.
"There is no indication at this point of foul play," Lt. Joel Vettel said.
Eighty-one Americans die by suicide each day, making it the nation's eighth-leading cause of death, and 80 to 90 percent suffer from a diagnosable mental illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dallman was 21 years old and attending North Dakota State University when he came home acting suicidal, his mother said. She drove him back to Fargo, where he agreed to admit himself into a hospital for treatment.
"But he was very, very ashamed and very afraid of what other people would think of him, so he kept that a complete secret from almost all of his closest friends even," she said.
The antidepressant he was given made him manic, during which time he began writing a book called "Judgement's Day," Woodruff said.
He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and given different medication, but even when he went back to college, "He still always had the desire to complete this book that would reconcile all the different religions and help people to understand how they could live together in peace," she said.
As the bipolar disorder progressed over the past two years, Dallman began having delusions about being the savior of man-kind, the "Second Coming." When his parents learned of his desire to be crucified in Guatemala, they had him involuntarily committed to a Bismarck hospital.
"He sat in the psych ward reading his Bible for two weeks and he refused to take medication that he felt would poison his system and make him unable to think clearly," Woodruff said.
After two weeks, a judge ruled that Dallman wasn't an immediate danger to himself or others and ordered him released, she said. He moved back to Fargo in late July.
Dallman had quit his job as a psychiatric aide so he could focus on his book, and his relationship with his parents was strained, which they realized was a risk of the involuntary commitment, Woodruff said.
Still, he returned to Beulah and had a "very good talk" with his mother on Christmas Eve.
"He seemed to be handling things OK," she said, adding he had accepted that nothing unusual had happened on Dec. 21 - a date some believed would bring the end of the world or usher in a new era - and that he would have to find a job to support himself.
In fact, on Jan. 4, the day he went missing, his computer's Internet history showed he was browsing job sites, Woodruff said.
"But I understand exactly what he was going through, that he had finished his life's purpose in completing the book and was trying his best to do what was expected of him but couldn't see any purpose in it," she said, echoing his letter, a copy of which she provided to The Forum.
Now, the grieving parents hope their son's story will help others realize there are options.
"Colter refused to treat his psychosis in the past two years, and if other people can see that they do need to treat their psychosis, it can relieve a lot of anguish for them and their families," Woodruff said.
A memorial service will be held at a later date, she said.
Warning signs of suicide
The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. Warning signs are associated with suicide, but may not be what causes a suicide:
Talking about wanting to die.
Looking for a way to kill oneself.
Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose.
Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
Talking about being a burden to others.
Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
Acting anxious, agitated or reckless.
Sleeping too much or too little.
Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
Displaying extreme mood swings.
What to do
If someone you know shows warning signs of suicide:
Do not leave the person alone.
Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).
Take the person to an emergency room, seek help from a medical or mental health professional or call 911.