"I lost my older sister, Sue, in 2000, to suicide. I also lost my paternal grandmother to suicide before I was born.
It was quite a shock to our whole family when we lost my sister as she was a devoted mother to her two sons, Drew and Adam, both of whom were in college.
They went to Miami University, which was her alma mater.
Maybe a month or two before her death, her youngest son, Adam, who was a freshman at the time, found $5,000.00 in a parking lot that a professor had lost. Adam turned the money over to the police, who subsequently returned it to the owner. The story hit the local paper and TV and in her interview, Sue remarked that she was proud of Adam, but not at all surprised by his actions. She knew he would do the right thing. I know that she was very proud of both boys--they meant the world to her. I believe it was difficult for her when she became an empty nester, but we didn’t realize the depth of her depression. She also left behind parents; my sister, Kittie; nieces and nephews; and brothers-in-law.
Shortly after we lost her, my father was diagnosed with cancer and died five months after she did. I think we were so involved in his battle that we avoided talking about the suicide. I know I was in such pain that I didn’t want to bring it up and further upset my parents. I think we all were trying to protect one another.
Since there wasn’t much question about her death being a suicide, we had to face that fact. I know that some families choose not to believe a loved one has died by suicide because it is so painful and could be explained in other ways. We want to believe there’s a chance it could be an accident versus suicide. Suicide leaves so many questions for those left behind as well as the guilt of feeling we could have made a difference in the outcome. We become members of a club we didn’t ask to join as a suicide survivor.
There is such a stigma surrounding mental health disorders and suicide. Some people think if you try hard enough you can just get over depression. Like it’s just a character flaw. These disorders are diagnosable, treatable illnesses. We need to keep the conversation going about mental health disorders. And more research needs to be done to understand and identify mental illness and provide early and more effective treatments.
I wanted to become involved in advocacy, but found that for many years, I was just too emotional. I didn’t think I could be effective in controlling my emotions or in telling Sue's story. I credit my nephew, Drew, with his walks to raise funds, and introducing me to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Out of the Darkness Walks.
Suicide cuts across all socioeconomic classes. Let’s try to continue talking and work to decrease the rate of suicide.
Our whole family is now becoming more involved in advocacy."