Warning Signs: Part One
For those who lose their loved ones to suicide many never believed it was going to happen until it was too late.
For Michelle Nelson too late was April 30, 2014. The day she lost her big sister Susan to suicide.
"I just had a feeling and I called him back and he told me his mom was gone and I said what did she do and right away he picked up on my phrasing and said why would you say that," Nelson said.
For Susan life had dealt her a few rough hands. Most recently the death of her mother.
"I think she really depended on my mom for a lot, just for support and you know she had a lot of struggles in life, but I don't think she really reached out and told anybody about them," Nelson said.
Once the life of the party, by the time their mom passed Nelson says her sister was already deep in depression.
"The last picture I have of my sister is from my moms funeral," Nelson said.
For Kelley Green her too late came on May 14 1998 when she lost her soon to be teenage son Darron to suicide.
"She went in and she came back she say 'I think he's dead' I was like what I mean no, I ran into his room and it was very obvious to me he had passed," Green said.
Too late may seem too harsh, but counselors say it's important to realize that suicide can affect anyone no matter their age, race or even social class.
"It's an equal opportunity killer, it doesn't discriminate," Green said.
For Green, Darron's death came as a complete surprise.
A fun loving smart and intelligent boy, an eagle scout with a full life ahead of him.
"He loved exploring where we lived. There was some new construction happening near the waters edge so there were all kinds of things being dug and turned up he loved going and exploring all that he was still doing all of those things. So for us, you know, it really was one of those total blind sides," Green said.
Since her son's death Green has been working to raise awareness about suicide.
The suicide rate has risen 24 percent since her son's death with the pace quickening according to the most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The period of year we see the biggest rise, springtime, something Ron Pilling with the Jesse Klump Suicide Prevention Program says defies popular belief.
"Most people do believe that holidays because you have memories of holidays when you were happy and now you're not happy that the holiday period is an upward spike in suicides and that in fact is not the case," Pilling said.
Statistics from the National Center for Health Statistics show suicides traditionally spike when the weather heats up.
Pilling says the worry is that people go on false alarm during the winter.
The thought that all the holiday movies showing families together make people at risk of suicide more likely to go through it. Then once the holiday's pass people may let down their guard at a time when they need to be watching out for suicide the most.
"You do tend to think 'well everybody is happier in the spring, everything is better. It's new life, the grass is green and the fields are green again and all but for some people that's the most hopeless time and now I've come to find out that my sister fit into this statistic," Nelson said.
The trend that's also seen in the amount of suicide calls the Life Crisis Center in Salisbury sees, In all of February this year they received 13 calls, by a week before April's end they had already received 20.
"People have different schools of thought about it, some are that through the winter people have been through such a doldrum and they've been thinking all winter about not being able to go on anymore and the spring brings them just enough energy and clear thought process to be able to follow through," Green said.
The reasons why springtime sees a spike are simply speculative because the people with the answers are no longer here. However the reason why they take their lives seems to have a consensus.
"I believe the same reason is true for everyone who dies of suicide and that is they're in so much pain whether it's physical, emotional, mental, a combination of all that they can only see one way out," Green said.
Donna Leffew, clinical director for the Life Crisis Center backs up that assertion.
"When folks get in that really, really dark place, they're not thinking logically and maybe rationally. All they're seeing is the darkness and feeling like the world would be better off if they weren't in it," Leffew said.
But the world often isn't a better place without them.
"You know the person thinks that okay, they'll just take their life they're free from their problems, nobody has to deal with them and everybody's just going to go on well everybody just doesn't go on, it makes it worse," Nelson said.
"Suicide is a death all its own the grief is different it comes with a whole lot of guilt and it certainly comes with a whole bucket load of shame," Green said.
The official term is survivors guilt.
"I can guarantee you nobody blames themselves any more than the parents of a child who's died by suicide," Green said, "Quite honestly I don't think a parent ever,ever quite accepts that, that it's not my fault on some level."
Part of that guilt comes with the question what could I have done to prevent this? In part two of the series we'll discuss what suicide prevention tips are out there and what resources are available.