Ten months ago, I lost my 16-year-old son, Jesse, to suicide. SUICIDE – it’s a hard word just to say. I don’t remember much from the five days leading up to his memorial service, but I do remember thinking that there would be a lot of teens there – vulnerable, hurting teens who might question their own existence here on this planet. It felt imperative to bring suicide into the open; to remind these teens to focus on their strengths and to remember what was good about themselves. At that service, I had them promise, out loud, that they would ask for help when they needed it. I invited them to come talk with me if they needed and together we would find their strengths and support each other.
Then I got scared. What if they came?
So my husband and I did a two-day Suicide Intervention training. And I entered a whole new world – the world of Suicide Prevention. A few teens did come, and spending time with them was at least as valuable to me as it was to them. With the encouragement and assistance of our Rabbi, my husband and I established an informal “teen council” of wise teens who advise us across the generational divide. They tell us about the pressures of growing up in Boulder; they teach us the ways to reach today’s teens. They support each other and they support us.
My husband is writing a book about his relationship with our son.
And I have become active in several local organizations working on suicide issues.
Boulder has an active Suicide Prevention community that is planning two events in September, which is Suicide Prevention Month. HOPE Lights the Night: The Third Annual Candlelight Vigil to Remember Those Lost to Suicide will be held on Tuesday, September 13th at 7 pm at the Community United Church of Christ, 2650 Table Mesa Drive in Boulder. This event was initially the idea of a mother who lost both of her children to suicide. It is hosted by the HOPE Coalition, a group dedicated to supporting depression awareness and suicide prevention in Boulder County. The program includes music, readings, a symbolic lighting of candles, and comments by Rabbi Nadya Gross, followed by refreshments. This program, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by over 20 community groups. For more information go to www.hopecoalitionboulder.org.
The second event is Tieg’s Walk for Suicide Prevention, Awareness and Remembrance. This is a 5K walk at the Boulder Reservoir on Sunday, September 18th. Check in is at 9:30. We begin walking at 10. Parking for participants is free. Registration is $15 online. For more information or to register to walk or donate, go to www.secondwindfundofbouldercounty.org and click on the icon for Tieg’s Walk. This event is designed to raise funds for the Second Wind Fund of Boulder County, a 501(c)3 organization providing free counseling to at-risk youth with financial need. It is also an opportunity to highlight the suicide prevention resources here in Boulder and to remember those we have lost to suicide as well as an opportunity to celebrate all who have chosen life. Following the walk, there will be free refreshments and live music by Kutandara Marimba Experience on the lawn. Tieg’s Walk is organized by two moms who lost sons to suicide, with the support of the Second Wind Fund of Boulder County and the HOPE Coalition.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth in Colorado. The statistics for Boulder County are worse than Colorado in general. According to the YWCA “Status of Children in Boulder County 2010” report, suicide accounted for a higher percent of all deaths among 15 to 19 year olds in Boulder County than statewide in the 2005-2009 time period, 35.6% compared to 22.7%.
I can’t bring my son back. But I can try to make a difference. You can too. Please join us at these events. Help those who struggle know that they are not alone. There is a community standing with them.