Our son, Keith, has died. I am unprepared. A part of me has died too. Why would a young man who had “everything going for him” take his life by suicide? I can’t understand it? Why as his Mother didn’t I know his pain? Why didn’t anyone see the signs that he was depressed? What is this silent killer called suicide?
The pain of Keith’s sudden death led me on my journey trying to understand suicide. If your loved one has died by suicide I want you to be surrounded by the knowledge I have gathered. I want you to have the information needed to help you destigmatize the word suicide. I want you to have all the knowledge I have found and then be able to understand that your loved one died of a terminal illness.
Keith was 29 years old when he died on March 29, 1999. Keith was an associate, in New Product Planning, at a Medical Products Company. He had held this position for 7 months after graduating from a prestigious graduate school. Keith never showed any signs of depression but after his death we understood the tremendous pressure he was under at work. Keith had friends everywhere and he was always the one you could turn to in time of need. Keith never lost a friend, they just multiplied. He loved nature and loved to be outdoors running, skiing, hiking, hunting and his greatest love fly-fishing. Our family stayed close even though we lived far apart. Keith had two sisters whom he adored. Yes, when you think of a gift you think of Keith. So what happened to Keith, who had so much to live for? What went wrong?
Most of the time people who kill themselves have depression or other types of depressive illnesses. When I speak of depression I am not saying they are feeling a little down or a little blue. This type of depression is an illness. When you are healthy you do not kill yourself! People suffering from depression don’t ask for it, just like people don’t ask to get cancer or diabetes.
The person who is depressed is under severe pain. We do not understand the severity of the psychological pain. The suicidal person finds he is left to deal with his pain alone. They don’t want to die, but it’s the only way they feel their pain will end. Suicidal acts are impulsive. A suicidal person is unable to resist the strong impulse to end the pain because of the depletion of the chemical called serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical within the brain that helps restrain impulsive behavior.
The main reason people don’t talk about depression is because of the stigma. People who suffer from depression are afraid others will think they are crazy. We have not accepted depressive illnesses like we’ve accepted other diseases. Most people do not understand that depression is an illness, and that a suicidal person is not in control of their behavior. Instead they attribute the act of suicide to a weakness of character.
I once overheard a survivor of suicide say, “I wish my son had died in a different way, not by suicide.” I felt a sadness overwhelm me. My son Keith is dead, how he died is not important! Could his suicide have been prevented if his depression was treated? Would he have sought treatment if the stigma surrounding mental illness, depression and suicidal thoughts, didn’t exist?
I am Keith’s Mother. I am a survivor of suicide. I need to grieve for my son without the conflict of myths about suicide which are not true. These myths keep survivors of suicide from being able to heal from their loss. If everyone was educated on depression and suicide, many lives could be saved. And those who have died by suicide can rest in peace with God.
Copyright Carol Loehr
Updated: January 21, 2015