Courageous Conversations: Teen Suicide

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo — The CDC suggests that 15%e of high school teens have seriously considered ending their own life. Suicide is now the 3rd leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10-24.

Sam’s Story

Sam Holmes was just 3 years old his first time on the golf course.

“He was so excited that he teed off and then went running for his 2nd shot,” said his father, Tim. “He ran from shot to shot for the 1st 4 or 5 holes until he wore himself out”.

His energy, his inclusiveness, and his humbleness shined.

“I loved watching him play golf, hitting balls, playing in tournaments. I would get so much more nervous watching him play competing or playing.”

“I knew that I could play golf with him for the rest of my life.”

14 years later, his parents, Tim and Mary Jane, watched him win a state title with Glendale High School and eventually earn a scholarship to play at Missouri State.

Life on the outside was green, but inside had been burdened for years with depression. 

“We could just see that he had a lot of anxiety going on. But it is really hard to help someone when they won’t admit that there is a problem,” explained Mary Jane, his mother. 

Mary Jane began a journal with Sam. The idea was that you could write back and forth about any problems you might be facing. The one rule was that you couldn’t talk out-loud about anything written.

Sam dealt with some issues this way, but it wasn’t as effective as they’d hoped.

Mary Jane Holmes said, “when Sam won state, he wrote his 2nd suicide note just days after. He had everything. He had wonderful friends, great grades, great success on the golf team.”

“Depression is different than sadness. It’s different. It’s not that you’re going to wake up tomorrow and have a good day. Every day is a bad day. Every day is a hard day.”

“And anxiety is exhausting.”

Sam took his life nearly one year ago on March 17, 2017. He was 19, and a freshman golfer at Missouri State. 

“The missing him part is getting worse as the time goes on. There are 1,000 things a day that remind you of him. There are countless things that you just wish you could share with him again. That’s just very difficult,” said Tim Holmes.

Sam showed signs of struggling when he was in middle school, but his parents didn’t begin seek external help until his senior year of high school. They went to his pediatrician, saw counseling, and went to psychiatrists.

When nothing seemed to work, Sam finally went voluntarily to the emergency room — But when they got there, he was grouped in with a variety of mental illnesses, including those who were brought in involuntarily. 

That was the last straw.

Sam was now legally an adult, at the age of 18.

“I hate to be negative about any of this, but it is what it is,” explained Mary Jane. “It was probably the most humiliating horrible experience that anyone can go through.”

“After it was over, I looked at my husband and told him that Sam would never, ever ask for help again. He went willingly, but after an experience like that, I think he became even more hopeless. He thought that none of this was working, nothing was going to help. We went to one of the highest levels you could for help.”

“I like to say that we tried everything we could, until we weren’t given the chance to try anything else”

Getting Help

“There is this issue that teens turn into adults, and they turn into adults legally at the age of 18.”

Dr. Kristen Thompson is the Pediatric Integration Coordinator at Burrell Behavioral Health in Springfield. 

“Your teen doesn’t have to allow you to help, and that can be really challenging for parents. You may not be able to force them into treatment, truly even if they are 16. If they aren’t ready, it won’t be all that effective, but you can be there.”

“You can be available, you can listen, you can send that text or that call that says ‘I’m thinking about you.’ Those are the subtle things that you can always do.”

“I’d rather have a parent be too cautious and for the child to think that my parents are too caring (get off my back), rather than ‘Do they even care what happens to me?’. So it’s really about ‘I’m here. I’m here. I’m still here. Hey, I’m here’ rather than ‘here’s what you need to do. Just make yourself available.”

Parents who are in a similar situation with a son or daughter away at college can always reach out to the campus counseling canter for help. 

The suicide prevention lifeline number will also put you in touch with a local crisis center. Anyone can call. 1-800-273-TALK.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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