A parent of a middle school student who completed the SOS Signs of Suicide® Prevention Program shares how this program helped her entire family. She speaks about how she might never have known about her daughter’s previous suicide attempt had it not been for the SOS program and how this prompted her to talk about this difficult subject with all of her children. The SOS Signs of Suicide® Prevention Program continues to save lives by opening the lines of communication between parents and students about this critical topic.  

The Teenage Years…A time of uncertainty, confusion, mixed emotions and wacky hormones! As a teenager, I thought I “knew it all” and needed no guidance. This mentality led to many bad decisions and consequences. At age 12 I attempted to take my life, but not with the intent to die. My intent was to gain attention from my mother. At age 14, I again attempted and this time nearly succeeded in taking my life. It seemed like everyone else was doing it, so I didn’t think anything of it except that it was an escape. At 14, my intent was to leave this life. As an adult, having survived this attack on myself, I vowed never to reveal that part of my life to my children.

My children… I have seven, 5 girls (18,13,11, 7 & 5) and 2 boys (16 & 10). They are my world! When my eldest son was in middle school, he yelled at me and said he wanted to “just kill himself!” He was in tears. In an instant, I was taken back to the emotions I faced as a teen. How could I allow my child to feel this way, and why didn’t I see it beforehand? I hurdled across the room, pinned him down, and yelled back at him that he was not allowed to say that! This past year, my ten-year-old son was lying on my bed with a pillow over his face. He looked like he was sleeping, so I creeped in and was going to creep out. As I began to walk out, he took the pillow off his face. I looked at him and he had tears rolling down his face and ever so subtly whimpered, “I want to kill myself, I don’t want to be here anymore.” Only a few years later, I faced this again! Why was my youngest son feeling this way, and what could I do? I raised my voice and told him not to say that because had anyone else threatened to take any of my children’s lives, I would’ve gone crazy and taken them down. In both instances, I hugged both of my boys tight and cried. I tried talking with them to see why they felt this way but couldn’t get an answer. This sparked the expedited need for counseling. So now all of my children go to counseling through Pillars. Even with counseling, depression still laid dormant in another one of my babies; however, it finally reared its devious head in the emotions of my daughter.

My daughter is a timid, thirteen-year-old 8th grader in the midst of discovering who she is. She lives with her mother, father, siblings, dog and cat. She has a few close friends and many who are “arm’s length friends.” She loves One Direction, hanging out with her friends, social media and being with her eighteen-year-old sister. When she brought home a permission slip to attend an SOS seminar, I sought her decision, in hopes that she wouldn’t want to go… and she didn’t. I was happy – happy because I felt that if she were to go, it would put ideas in her head about suicide. After all, I was still in the counseling process from her younger brothers’ threat of suicide. I was just fine with her not wanting to go. Her school called her father and gained his permission to allow her to go. They explained to him what the program was, and that it would be beneficial for her. He agreed and granted permission. (I was working and unaware of the phone call).

After working my overnight shift, I received a phone call from one of the district social workers. She told me that my daughter was with her, and explained everything to me. My daughter had attended the Elyssa’s Mission, SOS seminar and was given a questionnaire. In this questionnaire, she revealed that she had attempted suicide within this past year. At this point, I felt like a complete failure. How can I, as a mother, have three children that don’t want to live? What am I doing wrong? Is it genetic? How am I so blind to not see this coming? Do my other children feel this way? Do they really want to go or is it for attention? These were the thoughts, and then some, that were running through my head as I drove to the school to meet with my daughter and her counselor. Once I got there, I tried to act like I didn’t know what was going on. I wasn’t sure if she knew I knew. The social worker informed me that she was aware that I knew. I then very calmly asked her what happened. My daughter told me that she attempted to take her life by asphyxiation. At this point I broke down. I told her the same thing I told my sons: had anyone else threatened my kids’ lives, they would be down on the ground. I decided to reveal to her, for the purpose of her understanding that she is not the only one, that I had attempted suicide as a teen too. I asked her if she could imagine me not here, and how her siblings would feel if she weren’t here anymore. We cried and cried and hugged and cried. At that point, all I could think of was, had she not gone to the seminar, I would have never found out. My daughter is very private and wouldn’t just tell me like her brothers did.

I am taking classes at the College of DuPage and decided to do a speech on the SOS program. In doing so, I learned so much about the program and about Elyssa’s story. After reading and watching different sources, I stopped feeling guilty and decided that I needed to talk with ALL of my children regarding suicide. From my eighteen-year-old down to my five-year-old, we gathered in our small living room and talked. I began by asking, “How many of you have been so upset that you wanted to hurt yourself?” I was shocked, when every one of them raised their hands! The conversation lasted a while and I used information that I had researched as a means to respond during in our discussion. Specifically, I made sure they knew ACT: Acknowledge, Care and Tell. I let them know that they could talk to each other, teachers and even me or papi (dad).

SOS created, in a bittersweet way, a means of communication for my family. My daughter was able to make known what she had gone through. I was made aware and we were able to come together, as a family, to have an open and real talk about a very sensitive subject. This very same subject I had previously never wanted to discuss with my children in fear that it would put the idea in their head. Boy was I wrong!  With a sincere heart of gratitude, I thank you for bringing this program to my daughter’s school.