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Parents Talk: Mourning A Man Who Chose Suicide

The death of a friend's son has me asking what I can do for suicide awareness and prevention.

The son of one of my friends killed himself last week. My friend found him.

When I heard that on Monday, I had a rush of emotions: disbelief, despair and anger.

Five days earlier, I read . The story was by Mike Schoemer, St. Michael Patch local editor.

At the time I read the St. Michael story, I felt a tremendous amount of empathy for Dustin's mother, Gretchen Harrington. But it wasn't until I heard about the death of my friend's son that I felt some of the anguish of a suicide survivor.

I cried for my friend, who came home from work to find her son dead. I wanted to hug her and sob with her for as long as she needed me; long-distance prayers and Facebook posts seem so inadequate.

I cried for her son, who felt the only solution was his death. I wish I could've helped him in some way that would've made him see other options.

I was angry that he killed himself; he had to know a member of his family would find him. Then I felt guilty that I was blaming someone who obviously was in so much emotional pain.

I read memories his friends posted on Facebook. All the posts had two themes:

  1. He was such a happy person.
  2. His death doesn't make sense.

Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) in Minneapolis aims "to prevent suicide through public awareness and education, reduce stigma and serve as a resource to those touched by suicide."

It's not enough to give money to nonprofits that support awareness, or to mourn with those who have lost family members to suicide. In order to put a stop to suicides, I feel we each need to take a part in prevention.

This belief was driven home Wednesday, when I learned of another suicide: NFL great Junior Seau. Former teammates and family members expressed shock at the suicide of a philanthropist and businessman who seemed to be transitioning nicely to life after football.

This underlines the fact that things aren't always as they seem—people can appear carefree and yet be in torment on the inside.

We have to learn the signs of suicide and pay attention to the people around us. Even if we cannot know what someone's feeling, we can show them we care and we're open to hearing what's bothering them.

If you get to a point where you're considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). There is someone available at that toll-free number 24 hours a day.

Kevira Voegele May 04, 2012 at 04:51 AM
I really appreciate the insight, Mike. I think we all get so busy that we fail to pay attention to the people we know, and to make connections with the people we don't. Thank you for the kind words. I appreciate it.
Rachel Powell May 04, 2012 at 12:41 PM
As someone who has suffered from chronic depression my whole life, I have the ability to empathize with those who choose death over the pain of depression. It's like I explained to one of my therapists once, "I don't want to die, but I can't live with this pain." The reason it's important to give to organizations like SAVE is that they get the message out there - they are working to remove the stigma of depression, since there is one and many people find it difficult to admit to even their closest loved ones that they hurt so badly mentally that they can barely stand it for much longer. SAVE is working to tell those people, it's okay to have these feelings, it's okay to need antidepressants to fix the unbalanced chemicals in your brain, it's NOT your fault, we understand you can't just "snap out of it" and appreciate all the good you have in life. Yes, it isn't enough to JUST give money to SAVE and decide you've done your part. It's also important to, as you said, keep an eye out for people you know and care about. Listen to their words. Educate yourself on the warning signs of depression. Be there for someone who is struggling, and nudge them toward help
Antoinette Wetzel May 04, 2012 at 12:56 PM
If you are bereaved by loss by suicide, there is a bereavement support group that meets on the second Tuesday and fourth Thursday of every month at Mary Mother of the Church - 3333 Cliff Road. We meet at 7-8:30 in room 17. The facilitators have experienced loss of a loved one by suicide and have experienced this complicated grief. There is no fee. If you want more information,call Toni 952-890-0122.
Mike Smith May 04, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Rachel, Thank you for your comments. I have suffered also. I have dealt with Manic-Depressive Illness for years. I take a plethora of meds and they help me. My illness is Bipolar 2 which mostly falls on the depressive side of things. My mind has gotten stuck and all I have wanted is to shut it down, thus the many hospitalizations. Thank God for those who understand, it is not something you can snap out of unless total healing occurs. I have wanted to commit suicide just to get away from the pain. The meds, counseling over the years and my faith in Christ have kept me safe. Antoinette, Thank you for responding to Kevira with a tangible group to recover with. Everyone, It makes my heart joyful, knowing that there are those around me willing to share their thoughts and feelings in regards to this dark, confusing, and painful subject. Part of the pain for me over the years has been the stigma attached to mental illness and suicide. With you three sharing it helps toward bringing the walls down. Have a good day, Mike Smith
Evelyn Headen May 07, 2012 at 03:54 AM
A friend of ours just shared that her 14-yer-old son has been severely depressed and suicidal. While he is getting the help he needs from family and professionals, he doesn't want any of his friends (or their parents) to know. If he had broken his leg, his friends would be signing his cast and sending him get-well cards. We have to keep talking, and include young people in our conversations, to reduce the stigma of mental illness. As mentioned above, there really is an unbalance in the chemicals of the brain, and it is just as physical as a broken leg. Often there's a genetic predisposition, just as there may be a genetic predisposition to excel at sports or music. I hope the time comes soon -- very soon -- when any shame or stigma around mental illness vanishes.

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