Suicide Prevention Week

on Sep 08, 2013 by

After Christmas Eve, scheduled for release on October 11 by MLR Press, begins with a suicide. When I stumbled across a call for the Authors Care! blog hop for Suicide Prevention Week, I signed up to show my support. As part of the hop, you can win a $50 gift certificate from Amazon by visiting a Rafflecopter giveaway.

My experience with suicide is limited to the loss of a few classmates and a family member or two I didn’t know very well. So I asked a woman I’ve known for almost fifty years to tell you about her son, Travis. Janet is raising money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. If you’d like to help, click here.

I would like to thank Michael and Authors Care for giving me this opportunity to tell you our story and, hopefully, educate you a bit on suicide and its ultimate effects on those left behind. On December 2, 1983, I gave birth to my second child; Travis Lee Williford.  I always said he was born with a frown on his face. Little did I know that would haunt me forever.

Travis Lee was your typical little boy, into everything and very curious.  He had an older brother Jon-Michael that he looked up to and plenty of cousins to keep him busy. But there was always something different about Travis. His feelings were easily hurt and he always felt like he had something to prove to the world.

When he started school and CCD classes at the church, his diplomatic teachers would tell me that he was challenging to them. But he always did well in his schoolwork, and excelled so much that, in elementary school, they wanted to place him in the Gifted and Talented classes. But he refused, as he did not want to be “one of those”.

We did anyway. He soon figured out if he didn’t do his work, he’d be kicked out of the classes. He was very bright. When one teacher asked him how he was so informed on current events and happenings in the world, he told her that for punishment we, his parents, made him watch CNN on television instead of cartoons.  This of course was not true; he just had an old soul and knew things!

Around fifth or sixth grade, we noticed Travis was having problems.  One of his teachers even had the nerve to tell me he was “emotionally disturbed.” The other teacher in our conference immediately disagreed, but that comment has always stuck with me.

Travis coasted through school without even having to hardly open a book. He was bored, but still refused to get into the Advanced Classes.  His one passion was sports, especially baseball, which he started at age four.  When he entered high school, his freshman year he played tennis like his brother Jon-Michael. During the summer between his freshman and sophomore year, the high school baseball coach saw him playing for an American Legion select team and immediately asked him to join the high school team, which he did.  He loved baseball, and playing kept him busy and in school until he turned sixteen.

That is when the BIG changes began.  He got his license and a car and began to work. By the time he was a senior, he dropped out of the baseball team and eventually, school.  We suspected he was smoking pot and doing drugs. His moods were out of control. I was actually scared of him at times because he became so violent.

He finally agreed to see a physician and was placed on meds for depression, Paxil. We went to see a counselor—a WAKE UP CALL that I did not see coming.  The therapist told me he was suicidal!

WHAT? My baby was suicidal?  To think that he had this dark side that wanted him to take his life was beyond my comprehension.  In all of his tough as nails persona, Travis was the kindest and gentlest child I had known.  He would carry little kittens and puppies in his shirt and take them for rides on his bike. Younger children adored him, as he always befriended them and played with them. He was kind to the elderly and helped them whenever possible, and he never ever left our house without saying “I Love You, Mom.”

We tried to keep him on his meds and counselor appointments, but when he reached eighteen, there was no more we could do for him. The law would not allow us to make his appointments. He had to call and make them from now on out and he would not do it.  He eventually got into legal trouble and spent some time in jail before we decided to get him out, hoping that he had learned his lesson.  He appeared to be headed on the right path and stated that he did not ever want to go back to jail and was going to do everything he could to stay out.  He enrolled in the local Community College and seemed to enjoy his new life, when the legal trouble came back and he had difficulty finding a job.  I could see he was doing drugs and alcohol again.  We continued to support him and his friends were there for him.

Then on July 16, 2003, early in the morning, he had an asthma attack and was having difficulty breathing. We rushed him to the emergency room.  On the way to the hospital he tried to talk me out of taking him as he said he was getting better but I could tell he was not and continued on.  He was given two treatments and sent home with a prescription for inhalers.

We returned home around 8:00 AM and we both laid down to rest.  A little before noon, I checked on him, and he was still sleeping in his room.  He got up, ate some breakfast, and watched a little television.  He called one of his friends and told him how he had almost died from his asthma attack that morning and his friend agreed to come pick him up later to bring him into town. We lived in the country, so he could hang out with them for a few days.

He went to take a shower and I noticed a tear in his eye. I told him it would be okay. Ben would come get him and he could spend time with them and we would get his meds so this would not happen again.  After his shower, he ate again and then he disappeared into our guest room.

I sat on the couch watching General Hospital and was not sure how long he had been in there when he came walking out behind me and went outside. The couch faces the windows, so I saw him walking back toward the woods holding what appeared to be a gun in his hand.  I jumped up to run after him just about that time he fired a shot into the ground and kept walking.  I ran after him, screaming for him to stop, asking what was he doing and where was he going in a panicked state.

He finally stopped several hundred feet from our house.  As I said we live in the country and most of our land is heavily wooded.  He stopped by a tree, sat down, and with tears in his eyes, he told me that I needed to leave as he was not going to do this in front of me.  I told him that he would have to shoot me also as I was not leaving him.  He pointed the gun at me then back down and said what no mother ever wants to hear her child say, “I have nothing to live for.”

I will never forget it. I tried to tell him that was not true and to please not do this to me!  That seemed to make him mad. He said he was not doing it to me, but rather to him.  Looking back now with all the therapy and research I have done on suicide, I now understand, he was consumed with his pain and hopelessness and never realized what taking his life would do to his family and friends.

The rest is a black hole. The mind works wonders in helping you forget traumatic things. All I remember is the loudest noise I have ever heard in my entire life, then or since, and then he fell back onto the ground.

I ran toward the house screaming for help and trying to get to the phone to call for help.  Of course, when I called 911, I was put on hold. Being out of my mind, I then dialed the Operator and was transferred to a town sixty miles north with a similar name. By this time, I was screaming at the top of my lungs to help my son who had just shot himself. Eventually, I was connected to the correct dispatch. They said to stay on the line. A neighbor had already called in and the police were on their way.

Unable to sit still, I walked with the phone out to the road and waited. The sheriff’s department arrived and we walked back into the woods until they could see him, and then they would not allow me any closer.  I am not sure how long or how many police and EMS arrived, but eventually, a detective came to me and told me he was gone.

THAT WAS THE END OF THE WORLD AS I KNEW IT!  My Beautiful, Smart, Loving nineteen year old son was gone FOREVER!!!!!!!  The deputies would not allow me call my husband, but rather waited with me until he arrived home to tell him.  In the meantime, one of my best friends that lived down the street saw all the commotion going on and came running and stayed with me as well.  We then had the task of having to tell our son Jon-Michael and my mother.  My brother agreed to do this in person rather than me calling her over the phone.

It has been ten years this July 16th, and I still relive that day every day of my life.  I cannot tell you what I ate yesterday, but I will remember this day forever.

Suicide is preventable!  Ninety percent of ALL suicides had a treatable mental illness.  I know that I could not have stopped him that day, but that does not lessen the guilt that we live with. However, I have since learned that he had so many of the signs very, very early on that, had we known, maybe we could have helped him.  His friends told me that Travis always went to extremes with the alcohol and drugs, while the rest of them just wanted to have fun, Travis wanted to get NUMB, he even asked a friend a few days before if he had any self-help books. His friend was only 19 and he did not know what was about to happen.  Travis had withdrawn and disconnected from society, and once they do that, it is very hard to get them back.

We know the signs for Heart Attack, Stroke, Diabetes, HBP, and more…There are signs for suicide, LEARN THEM, KNOWN THEM, TEACH THEM, LISTEN TO THEM, it can be STOPPED!

  • Appearing sad or depressed most of the time
  • Clinical depression: deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating—that doesn’t go away or continues to get worse
  • Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep
  • Neglecting personal welfare, deteriorating physical appearance
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and society, or sleeping all the time
  • Losing interest in hobbies, work, school, or other things one used to care about
  • Frequent and dramatic mood changes
  • Expressing feelings of excessive guilt or shame
  • Feelings of failure or decreased performance
  • Feeling that life is not worth living, having no sense of purpose in life
  • Talk about feeling trapped—like there is no way out of a situation
  • Having feelings of desperation, and saying that there’s no solution to their problems

Their behavior may be dramatically different from their normal behavior, or they may appear to be actively contemplating or preparing for a suicidal act through behaviors such as:

  • Performing poorly at work or school
  • Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities—seemingly without thinking
  • Showing violent behavior such as punching holes in walls, getting into fights or self-destructive violence; feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
  • Looking as though one has a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, and/or making out a will
  • Seeking access to firearms, pills, or other means of harming oneself

If you know someone who needs help or is saying that they are going to kill themselves, TELL SOMEONE, they may get mad at you but, it could SAVE THEIR LIVES.

No parent, brother, sister, grandparent, cousin or friend should have to go through this living Hell after a loved one takes their own life.  The problem is that the loved one is in such a state of pain, distress, and hopelessness that they cannot see what it will do to those left behind.  Suicide not only affects the loved ones but those in the community, school, and church.

For information on the Risk Factors, Warning Signs and what to do to help those in need, go to www.afsp.org, DO NOT IGNORE THE SIGNS OR SOMEONE ASKING FOR HELP.

Thank you for caring enough to learn about Suicide and Prevention, now go out and spread the word, let’s make mental illness a Priority with Medical Providers, Community and Society so that others can get the help they need and families will not suffer such a loss.

After Christmas Eve, scheduled for release on October 11 by MLR Press, begins with a suicide. When I stumbled across a call for the Authors Care! blog hop for Suicide Prevention Week, I signed up to show my support. As part of the hop, you can win a $50 gift certificate from Amazon by visiting a Rafflecopter giveaway.

My experience with suicide is limited to the loss of a few classmates and a family member or two I didn’t know very well. So I asked a woman I’ve known for almost fifty years to tell you about her son, Travis. Janet is raising money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. If you’d like to help, click here.

I would like to thank Michael and Authors Care for giving me this opportunity to tell you our story and, hopefully, educate you a bit on suicide and its ultimate effects on those left behind. On December 2, 1983, I gave birth to my second child; Travis Lee Williford.  I always said he was born with a frown on his face. Little did I know that would haunt me forever.

Travis Lee was your typical little boy, into everything and very curious.  He had an older brother Jon-Michael that he looked up to and plenty of cousins to keep him busy. But there was always something different about Travis. His feelings were easily hurt and he always felt like he had something to prove to the world.

When he started school and CCD classes at the church, his diplomatic teachers would tell me that he was challenging to them. But he always did well in his schoolwork, and excelled so much that, in elementary school, they wanted to place him in the Gifted and Talented classes. But he refused, as he did not want to be “one of those”.

We did anyway. He soon figured out if he didn’t do his work, he’d be kicked out of the classes. He was very bright. When one teacher asked him how he was so informed on current events and happenings in the world, he told her that for punishment we, his parents, made him watch CNN on television instead of cartoons.  This of course was not true; he just had an old soul and knew things!

Around fifth or sixth grade, we noticed Travis was having problems.  One of his teachers even had the nerve to tell me he was “emotionally disturbed.” The other teacher in our conference immediately disagreed, but that comment has always stuck with me.

Travis coasted through school without even having to hardly open a book. He was bored, but still refused to get into the Advanced Classes.  His one passion was sports, especially baseball, which he started at age four.  When he entered high school, his freshman year he played tennis like his brother Jon-Michael. During the summer between his freshman and sophomore year, the high school baseball coach saw him playing for an American Legion select team and immediately asked him to join the high school team, which he did.  He loved baseball, and playing kept him busy and in school until he turned sixteen.

That is when the BIG changes began.  He got his license and a car and began to work. By the time he was a senior, he dropped out of the baseball team and eventually, school.  We suspected he was smoking pot and doing drugs. His moods were out of control. I was actually scared of him at times because he became so violent.

He finally agreed to see a physician and was placed on meds for depression, Paxil. We went to see a counselor—a WAKE UP CALL that I did not see coming.  The therapist told me he was suicidal!

WHAT? My baby was suicidal?  To think that he had this dark side that wanted him to take his life was beyond my comprehension.  In all of his tough as nails persona, Travis was the kindest and gentlest child I had known.  He would carry little kittens and puppies in his shirt and take them for rides on his bike. Younger children adored him, as he always befriended them and played with them. He was kind to the elderly and helped them whenever possible, and he never ever left our house without saying “I Love You, Mom.”

We tried to keep him on his meds and counselor appointments, but when he reached eighteen, there was no more we could do for him. The law would not allow us to make his appointments. He had to call and make them from now on out and he would not do it.  He eventually got into legal trouble and spent some time in jail before we decided to get him out, hoping that he had learned his lesson.  He appeared to be headed on the right path and stated that he did not ever want to go back to jail and was going to do everything he could to stay out.  He enrolled in the local Community College and seemed to enjoy his new life, when the legal trouble came back and he had difficulty finding a job.  I could see he was doing drugs and alcohol again.  We continued to support him and his friends were there for him.

Then on July 16, 2003, early in the morning, he had an asthma attack and was having difficulty breathing. We rushed him to the emergency room.  On the way to the hospital he tried to talk me out of taking him as he said he was getting better but I could tell he was not and continued on.  He was given two treatments and sent home with a prescription for inhalers.

We returned home around 8:00 AM and we both laid down to rest.  A little before noon, I checked on him, and he was still sleeping in his room.  He got up, ate some breakfast, and watched a little television.  He called one of his friends and told him how he had almost died from his asthma attack that morning and his friend agreed to come pick him up later to bring him into town. We lived in the country, so he could hang out with them for a few days.

He went to take a shower and I noticed a tear in his eye. I told him it would be okay. Ben would come get him and he could spend time with them and we would get his meds so this would not happen again.  After his shower, he ate again and then he disappeared into our guest room.

I sat on the couch watching General Hospital and was not sure how long he had been in there when he came walking out behind me and went outside. The couch faces the windows, so I saw him walking back toward the woods holding what appeared to be a gun in his hand.  I jumped up to run after him just about that time he fired a shot into the ground and kept walking.  I ran after him, screaming for him to stop, asking what was he doing and where was he going in a panicked state.

He finally stopped several hundred feet from our house.  As I said we live in the country and most of our land is heavily wooded.  He stopped by a tree, sat down, and with tears in his eyes, he told me that I needed to leave as he was not going to do this in front of me.  I told him that he would have to shoot me also as I was not leaving him.  He pointed the gun at me then back down and said what no mother ever wants to hear her child say, “I have nothing to live for.”

I will never forget it. I tried to tell him that was not true and to please not do this to me!  That seemed to make him mad. He said he was not doing it to me, but rather to him.  Looking back now with all the therapy and research I have done on suicide, I now understand, he was consumed with his pain and hopelessness and never realized what taking his life would do to his family and friends.

The rest is a black hole. The mind works wonders in helping you forget traumatic things. All I remember is the loudest noise I have ever heard in my entire life, then or since, and then he fell back onto the ground.

I ran toward the house screaming for help and trying to get to the phone to call for help.  Of course, when I called 911, I was put on hold. Being out of my mind, I then dialed the Operator and was transferred to a town sixty miles north with a similar name. By this time, I was screaming at the top of my lungs to help my son who had just shot himself. Eventually, I was connected to the correct dispatch. They said to stay on the line. A neighbor had already called in and the police were on their way.

Unable to sit still, I walked with the phone out to the road and waited. The sheriff’s department arrived and we walked back into the woods until they could see him, and then they would not allow me any closer.  I am not sure how long or how many police and EMS arrived, but eventually, a detective came to me and told me he was gone.

THAT WAS THE END OF THE WORLD AS I KNEW IT!  My Beautiful, Smart, Loving nineteen year old son was gone FOREVER!!!!!!!  The deputies would not allow me call my husband, but rather waited with me until he arrived home to tell him.  In the meantime, one of my best friends that lived down the street saw all the commotion going on and came running and stayed with me as well.  We then had the task of having to tell our son Jon-Michael and my mother.  My brother agreed to do this in person rather than me calling her over the phone.

It has been ten years this July 16th, and I still relive that day every day of my life.  I cannot tell you what I ate yesterday, but I will remember this day forever.

Suicide is preventable!  Ninety percent of ALL suicides had a treatable mental illness.  I know that I could not have stopped him that day, but that does not lessen the guilt that we live with. However, I have since learned that he had so many of the signs very, very early on that, had we known, maybe we could have helped him.  His friends told me that Travis always went to extremes with the alcohol and drugs, while the rest of them just wanted to have fun, Travis wanted to get NUMB, he even asked a friend a few days before if he had any self-help books. His friend was only 19 and he did not know what was about to happen.  Travis had withdrawn and disconnected from society, and once they do that, it is very hard to get them back.

We know the signs for Heart Attack, Stroke, Diabetes, HBP, and more…There are signs for suicide, LEARN THEM, KNOWN THEM, TEACH THEM, LISTEN TO THEM, it can be STOPPED!

  • Appearing sad or depressed most of the time
  • Clinical depression: deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating—that doesn’t go away or continues to get worse
  • Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep
  • Neglecting personal welfare, deteriorating physical appearance
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and society, or sleeping all the time
  • Losing interest in hobbies, work, school, or other things one used to care about
  • Frequent and dramatic mood changes
  • Expressing feelings of excessive guilt or shame
  • Feelings of failure or decreased performance
  • Feeling that life is not worth living, having no sense of purpose in life
  • Talk about feeling trapped—like there is no way out of a situation
  • Having feelings of desperation, and saying that there’s no solution to their problems

Their behavior may be dramatically different from their normal behavior, or they may appear to be actively contemplating or preparing for a suicidal act through behaviors such as:

  • Performing poorly at work or school
  • Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities—seemingly without thinking
  • Showing violent behavior such as punching holes in walls, getting into fights or self-destructive violence; feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
  • Looking as though one has a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, and/or making out a will
  • Seeking access to firearms, pills, or other means of harming oneself

If you know someone who needs help or is saying that they are going to kill themselves, TELL SOMEONE, they may get mad at you but, it could SAVE THEIR LIVES.

No parent, brother, sister, grandparent, cousin or friend should have to go through this living Hell after a loved one takes their own life.  The problem is that the loved one is in such a state of pain, distress, and hopelessness that they cannot see what it will do to those left behind.  Suicide not only affects the loved ones but those in the community, school, and church.

For information on the Risk Factors, Warning Signs and what to do to help those in need, go to www.afsp.org, DO NOT IGNORE THE SIGNS OR SOMEONE ASKING FOR HELP.

Thank you for caring enough to learn about Suicide and Prevention, now go out and spread the word, let’s make mental illness a Priority with Medical Providers, Community and Society so that others can get the help they need and families will not suffer such a loss.



6 Comments

  1. Kassandra says:

    Thank you for sharing your personal story. I have known classmates and family members of friends that have committed suicide but have yet to lose someone close to me. I commend you for your dedication to make something positive come from it all.

    Kassandra
    sionedkla@gmail.com

  2. jeanie says:

    Hello Janet, I’m at a loss for words…still ‘processing’ what you must be facing. I commend you for reaching out to others to raise awareness of mental illness & risk factors. You’re so right that often people just do not listen to each other. Also, I wish more health professionals would recommend neurotransmitter testing (I had mine tested using a urine test kit through my nutritionist) There are often corrections in brain chemistry that can be made, she explained, using targeted nutritional formulas without the use of synthetic Rx drugs; but of course in an acute crisis meds can save lives and are indicated. Given the risky side effects of Rx drugs & their ‘black box warnings,’ I believe we’re wise to look to proven alternative approaches, guided by a qualified professional prior to dosing ourselves & our children with psych meds. Wishing you and your family peace & healing with each new day.

  3. Cheryl Foster Richardson says:

    I knew you were dedicated to Suicide Prevention due to the loss of your youngest son, Travis. Until reading this today, I didn’t know how deep the trauma is to the family or person, being there but unable to stop the person you love from ending the pain. I am humbled to know how strong a person you are in your desire to get the word out to, hopefully, prevent another family from suffering the intense pain you have suffered. The Mental Health Field has such a long way to go to teaching and training people in dealing with Mental Illness, I see their failing in my line of work. While I’m not involved any more than the first 911 call for help, I sometimes wish there was more I could say or do to help. Training for all in the Emergency Fields is something that needs to be taught and structured so that help can be given at all levels of contact. God Bless you, Janet. I’m very grateful to be included in your circle of “friends” as a Classmate.

  4. Sue Sattler says:

    I am so sorry about the loss of your son Travis. My son Dane spent over 4 years struggling to deal with severe PTSD and TBI from his 15 months in Iraq. On Jan. 2, 2011, he decided he could no longer do it and completed suicide. He was 25 and my oldest child, my sunshine, my pride and joy and my friend. We tried for many years to get him help, he was surrounded by loving family and friends, but I think sometimes he felt like a failure because he wasn’t able to handle it on his own. My sister and her husband are both psychologists so there was never any stigma about getting help. To say that his death devastated all of us is an understatement. I will never be the person I use to be, a part of me will be broken until I’m with him again. Thank you for bringing this subject out in the open, I talk about it often. My son didn’t do this to hurt us, he just wanted the pain to stop, I know that if he had been thinking clearly, knowing all the pain that we would be in, he never would have done this, he didn’t have a mean bone in his body. We talked about suicide often because of how many vets were choosing this course in life, the extra hurt that came when someone chooses to take their life, how loved he was and how many people that were available to him if he needed help and he promised me that if he ever felt like that, he would come to me. But one night after not sleeping for days and tired of the sounds and smells of battle assaulting him, he broke his promise and my heart. His last words were “I don’t want to die” he just wanted the pain to stop. Like you, I remember every minute of the day his friends called to tell me that he had slit his throat, was at the hospital and wasn’t doing very well. I remember the Dr asking me if he had been in the Army because of the way he choose to die, but remembering what I do day to day forget it. I pray our babies have found the peace now that they were so desperately looking for. From one mother to another who has lost a piece of our hearts I hope that you find some measure of peace in this long and terrible road of a survivor.

    proudarmymom32(at)yahoo(dot)com

  5. suze294 says:

    Thank you Janetfor sharing your story, and the information

  6. H.B. says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss and I can’t claim to how you feel. Thank you for sharing your story and for helping to spread the word about how to prevent suicide. Thank you for listing the signs and behavior to look out for.

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