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 a story about a woman whose son, Dustin, committed suicide in fall 2011. 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:
- He was such a happy person.
- 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.