By Valerie D. Lockhart
SUN EXECUTIVE EDITOR
Tightly holding onto a sheet of paper, Anise Williams read the last message written by her 16-year-old son which simply said, “I’m better off dead.”
The seemingly depressed youth made good on his words, swallowing a bottle of prescription pain killers. His lifeless body was discovered by his mother, when she checked up on him in his room.
“It was my worst nightmare,” she recalled of the incident that took place nearly two years ago. “No mother should ever have to walk into a room and find their son dead. I knew he was depressed the last few days, after being teased at school and ending a friendship with a childhood friend. But, I thought that he would snap out of it. I didn’t know that he would take it that far. If I could turn back time, I would have done more. And, maybe he would still be with us today. I keep this note, as a reminder to try to help someone else.”
To increase awareness of suicide and promote prevention, September is recognized as Suicide Prevention Awareness month. OK2SAY has launched a program to recruit and educate students on bullying and suicide prevention.
"In the world of bullying prevention, we all need to be creative and think very differently. When the idea for OK2SAY was brought up, the response was ‘No one will use it’," said Kevin Epling, an anti-bullying advocate whose son Matt died by suicide, and is a parent advocate for OK2SAY. “Two years and close to 5,000 reports filed later, we've changed the playing field and given kids and parents hope."
Williams is not alone in mourning the loss of a child to suicide. Results of the Michigan 2015 High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey revealed that 9.2 percent of those surveyed had attempted suicide at least once. It also revealed that 17.3 percent seriously considered attempting suicide and 15 percent made a plan about how they would attempt suicide.
“It is heartbreaking when a young person takes their life because they feel there is no other way,” said Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette. “Numbers like these are why a program like OK2SAY is so important. If just one life is saved, and one suicide is prevented this program is a success. I am looking forward to seeing what the future is for this program in Michigan.”
Paying attention to one’s cries for help is key to preventing suicide.
According to WebMD, some of the warning signs of one contemplating suicide are:
• Always talking or thinking about death
• Clinical depression -- deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleepingand eating -- that gets worse
• Having a "death wish," tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights
• Losing interest in things one used to care about
• Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
• Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
• Saying things like "it would be better if I wasn't here" or "I want out"
• Sudden, unexpected switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
• Talking about suicide or killing one's self
• Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
“If I had paid closer attention to my son’s warning signs, he may still be here today,” says Williams. “He was crying out for help, but I wasn’t listening. I beg parents to pay closer attention to their children and don’t make the same mistake I did. It could save a life. No child should ever be made to feel like they’re better off dead. Listen and act accordingly.”
Tips on bullying and suicide prevention can be submitted confidentially to OK2SAY by calling 8-555-OK2SAY, 855-565-2729, texting 652729 (OK2SAY) or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.