Keaton Teal

"You don’t have to be suicidal to be affected by suicide.

During Summer of 2002, we hosted a cookout at my house with my dad’s step-brother and his family. It really felt like it was the first time I had met him because we never got together that much. 

At the time, I was eight years old, and thought he was one of the coolest people I had met. He was a young man, 29 years old, and I looked up to him a lot that day.

Unfortunately, that was the last time I saw him.

Coming home from a little league game in Spring of 2003, my dad received a call. He was told that his step-brother had been killed by a self-inflicted gunshot. 

My dad went silent, then told everyone in the car. At the time, I don’t think I really understood what happened. Everything seemed so fine just a few months ago, and I couldn’t imagine the same playful person wanting to end his life.

I was too young, and too naive.

He had been getting into drugs and alcohol, and his wife said he had been threatening to kill himself in the past. On this particular night, he was threatening yet again. I don’t know if he was under the influence or not, but amidst his threat, the gun went off accidentally. 

Accident or not, the idea was there, and it was eating away at him.

Fast forward to 2009.

I received word that a friend of mine’s older brother had died, and it was determined to be suicide. He was only 22 years old. I have not spoken with his family about what occurred; therefore, I will not give any more details about him or his death. 

I will tell you my experience for the next coming days.

I didn’t know the older brother too well, but another friend of mine’s older brother was his best friend—so I saw him quite a bit. Of course, I felt sad for the family and had no idea what they were feeling. At the funeral services, it seemed like the whole city was there. He was a great-looking guy who really enjoyed people. A few of his friends—who were also his pallbearers—wore Superman T-shirts in honor of their friend’s favorite hero. 

I remember thinking: 'How horrible would it be to have to carry your best friend?'

At the service, there was a long line to speak to family, and the image of my friend who had just lost a brother was burned into my mind. I watched for what felt like an eternity as countless friends hugged her as she was crying. 

It was my turn and I couldn’t think of anything to say. 

I held onto her, feeling each breath as she sobbed. All I could manage to whisper was: 'I’m so sorry.'

For the next few years, his obituary hung on our fridge.

Through my internship at NAMI of Montgomery County, Ohio, I have met Whitney, and I was very hesitant in asking if I could be photographed for the Stanley Sessions. 

I was wary because I felt like I would be minimizing everyone who has these thoughts themselves, or had a more direct experience with suicide. 

She told me that: 'Just talking about suicide and your experiences with it helps to raise awareness.'

I hope that one day, we as a public can talk about suicide in a non-stigmatizing way. Unfortunately, we still live in an era where groups of people are oppressed: women, minorities, the LGBTQ community, etc.

Care for one another. Help one another. Love one another. 

Everyone’s life is important."