With the publication of our white paper in February, “We Need to Talk About Suicide,” Beacon has launched its own suicide prevention efforts through a Zero Suicide campaign. As part of that campaign, and to help initiate conversation around a topic that has traditionally been off-limits, we’ll be releasing stories from Beacon employees regarding their personal experience with suicide. You’ll be able to find these stories on our blog Beacon Lens, as well as here on our website.
“It never occurred to me to ask why he didn’t return with me to school after lunch, or why he disappeared the previous year. It wasn’t until years later that I learned how bad his home life was – a negligent father, but whose negligence was nothing compared to what his mother did to him with lit cigarettes and a revolving door of boyfriends.”
Daniel was one of those friends from high school who is hard to forget. He was honest, wore his heart on his sleeve, sported Converse sneakers and liked to smoke cigarettes – much to the chagrin of one’s parents.
While Daniel may have seemed cool to his peers, there was nothing “cool” about his home life, a home darkened by negligent and abusive parents. As it turned out, Daniel died by suicide as a very young man. His parents never held a funeral for him. Kelly Lightle, Intake Coordinator in Beacon’s Woburn office, writes about Daniel, a reminder as to why it is so important to share his story and ones like it.
“As I showed a hometown friend around my university’s library one November Sunday afternoon in my sophomore year, a classmate saw me and said, ‘Did you hear about Frank?’. I had last seen my roommate on Friday afternoon when we both headed to our respective hometowns for the weekend. I returned to the campus on Sunday. Frank did not. He had died by suicide.”
On paper, the world was Frank’s oyster. He was in college, a pre-med major, getting A’s in his classes. He had direction and commitment, all leading him to a life of meaningful pursuit.
However, that turned out not to be the case, because at 19, he died by suicide, an end that he had been planning for quite a while. His then freshman roommate, Gregory Simpson, Beacon’s Regional Network Manager in Connecticut, was puzzled by Frank’s suicide death then and still is, as Frank was a young man with purpose, seemingly not depressed.
“Elizabeth has had suicidal ideations from since she was about 12 to about 17…Trying to keep her alive has not been an easy task by any means. It was heartbreaking wondering whether she was alive or dead when missing, but equally heartbreaking when she was home and suffering.”
Tracie Wood, a Provider Line Representative in Beacon’s Latham, NY engagement center, writes about helping her daughter “Elizabeth” through hospitalizations, schooling issues, runaway attempts – and suicide attempts.
“And yes, I did learn that Ted had committed suicide the very night he had called me. Many well-intentioned people have told me that it is not my fault and that he may well have taken his life, even if we had talked. And I do know that. But I also know that a few caring words can sometimes prevent suicide.”
Coralie Blackburn, a Risk Analyst in the Quality Department of Beacon Health Options’ Pennsylvania Engagement Center, works daily with the aftermath of suicide and suicide attempts, but one “what if” has dogged her throughout her adult life. When she was 18 and transient, she met Ted, a friend who would later take his own life after calling her late one night from a pay phone.
“Suicide has had an impact on my life since I was a young child. My grandfather completed suicide when I was just 5 years old. I saw the impact on my family from a child’s eyes, but the true depth of that impact wouldn’t come to pass until later in life. Today, I am blessed enough to say that I am truly in recovery from both mental illness and a substance use disorder. I thought about suicide often in childhood. I was intrigued by it somehow. I saw power in it and a control that I lacked in my life.”
Kathrine Goddard, a Peer and Family Support Specialist at Beacon, writes about how suicide has affected her life since she was five years old. It followed her into her teens and through her years struggling with a substance use disorder. Even today, suicidal thoughts can lurk, but she shares her story to reclaim her personal power and to express hope.
“The phone rings, early on a Sunday morning. I’m excited, as it is a childhood friend whom I’m really looking forward to reconnecting with; only she asks me to let my parents know that her brother committed suicide the night before. No words can describe the pain heard and felt. Of course, as outsiders, as onlookers, our first unspoken questions are ‘How did this happen?’ ‘How did he do it?'”
Michelle Queen, an Intensive Care Manager at Beacon, writes about the many faces of suicide that have appeared in her life, both personally and as a behavioral health professional. Usually, those faces appear suddenly, without warning, often over the phone with the news of a loved one’s death by suicide. As Michelle looks into the faces of those people lost to her through suicide, she can’t help but ask many questions about this forbidden topic.
“The toughest speech I have ever given in my life – and candidly to the most important audience – was not to a room of politicians or colleagues. Those speeches seem so easy now in retrospect. My toughest public-speaking moment was delivering the eulogy of my son’s very best friend, Adam (not his real name), just days after his death by suicide in 2014.”
Maggie Tapp, Senior Vice President of Client Partnerships, starts off our story-sharing by writing about the unthinkable: the suicide death of her son’s 10-year-old friend.