*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the subject of the story.
John and I were sitting on the couch across from Heather Lee, medium extraordinaire. It was one year after Luke had passed away, and during the course of our *conversation*, Luke began to describe one of his friends to Heather. John and I managed to figure out he was talking about Sami, someone we had been close to since Luke died. And then Luke said, “You need to take care of her.” Well, this young miss had not struck us as the kind of gal needing help, but we tucked the request away, and went on with the daily work of coping with grief.
It was only a few weeks later that John was driving home from work, when he came across a situation on the side of the road. He was rounding the corner of Quinapoxet, and, in a dangerous curve of the road ( and a hill to boot), a car was parked. John’s headlights swashed across the figure of a young woman standing out front of her automobile. In the seconds it took John to pass the scene on the road, he had processed it, and quickly made the decision to turn around to see if the young lady needed help. He parked safely and made his way over. John couldn’t believe it when he saw another young friend of Luke’s, Allie. He called out to her and she quickly responded.
“Mr. Inwood, It’s Sami! She tried to kill herself.”
Now, I know what you are thinking because it was the same thing I felt at the time. Wait, WHAT?! But it was true. Sami had been suffering with intense anxiety, and when the grief of losing Luke was added to that, it became too much. But her guardian angel was looking over her and when her attempt at suicide was unsuccessful, she knew she was in trouble and reached out to her bestie and her mom. Seeing Sami that night was incredibly emotional for John. And how the heck had HE been the one to land on the scene first? Coincidence? Not in my world. John stayed with them until Sami was in the care of medical professionals. Sami spent a few months in the hospital working on the issues that had landed her in such a dark space. Luke had given her to us to hold and protect, so we went up a few times to visit her. It was during our first visit, when Sami was describing the night John found her, that she shared her final thoughts that led her down the rabbit hole.
“I was hurting and I just wanted to be with Luke.”
Sigh. Suicide clusters are a thing, friends. The Lancet Child and Adolescent Magazine defines a suicide cluster as the situation where more suicides than expected occur in relation to time, place (or both), and includes three or more deaths.
In recent years, suicide has become one of the top five causes of death worldwide for children between the ages of 15 and 19 according to the World Health Organization. A 1987 study of youth suicide by the Centers for Disease Control found that 1 to 5 percent of all youth suicides occur in clusters. Since the suicide of a friend or age peer is often a traumatic experience for adolescents (many of whom are left bewildered by the lack of warning signs), the death of one teen might influence other teens feeling suicidal. Media influences, including the suicide of a well-known celebrity or personal idol can have a similar influence on depressed young people (also known as the Werther effect),– Psychology Today
Thankfully, Sami’s attempt was unsuccessful and she was able to get the help she needed. But another young man at Wachusett did not. I’m not sure if you know this or not, but about a month after Luke had passed away, a freshman at Wachusett died by suicide. Someone’s baby. So incredibly sad. And these are the kiddos we know about. It is hard to determine how many others may have attempted or thought of attempting suicide in the year following Luke’s death. Just one more ugly consequence of mental health.
So here’s what I need you to know: If your community has been rocked to the core following the loss of a young person to suicide, you know it feels like an earthquake with tremors that just won’t quit. I didn’t realize how much the kids that loved Luke struggled with trying to process his death until we talked about it two or three years after the fact. Young lovelies don’t always recognize the depth or severity of what they are feeling after they lose someone or that they may need help. Remember to tell your kids what I always say – Thinking about suicide is NOT a normal thought process. If even one sneaky, the planet- would- be- better- off -without- me thought pattern is initiated, you are already playing catch-up. That child NEEDS professional help to get to the other side. Because there IS another side and it takes all of us watching out for one another, taking care of one another, as my boy asked, to get through. #NotOneMore Xxx