I remember the night almost 10 years ago, when my friend Darlene emailed me to say she couldn’t reach her daughter, Jolene. She was frantic. Had something happened? At age 23, Jolene battled issues like depression and borderline personality disorder.
Darlene lived in Colorado, I was here in Texas, and another friend she’d contacted lived in Maine. We were critique/writing partners and we were in touch every day. Finally, late at night, Darlene emailed again. Yes, something had happened.
Jolene had taken her own life. We were heartbroken for Darlene, heartbroken that Jolene had seen no other way out of whatever pit she had fallen into. At last, in her grief, Darlene began to share with others the journey of losing a loved one to suicide. One of the deepest parts of the sorrow was all the “could haves” surrounding Jolene. She “could have” had so much more and done so many things in her life that she chose to end. I named a young character in one of my books Jolene, after her, and all the things she didn’t get to do.
Suicide, like mental illness, is another one of those subjects we tend to be hush, hush about, when maybe we shouldn’t.
Many of us don’t understand what someone faces when having suicidal thoughts. For many of us, life is hard but it also has beauty. Many of us have hope and strength to fight our way out of “the blues.” But severe depression is more than a case of “the blues.”
Whenever I see an email press release with the subject “Death of a Fort Hood Soldier” in my mailbox, I wonder again if it is yet another suicide, a “soldier found unresponsive” in their residence. If it is in Copperas Cove, I check the police bulletin and more than once, there has been a report of an “unattended death” on the list.
I have also heard whispers of young people in our very community trying to take their lives and some of them succeeding. But, it is hush, hush. Don’t ask, don’t tell. But the circumstances surrounding suicide are a very private pain for families. Yet if we start to address what leads up to suicide and the ripple effect it causes afterward, maybe others—whether a soldier or a young person—will make another choice, and choose life, no matter how painful it is, if they know there is someone there to stand with them in their pain.
One brave young lady in our community has made a start, by holding a teen suicide awareness and prevention candlelight walk in South Park on Saturday evening at 8 p.m. I hope you will join her to show others they are not alone.