Have you ever felt like your heart was being ripped out of your chest? Felt a pain you were pretty sure would never go away? Have you ever thought the tears and wracking sobs would never stop, but when they did it was simply because there were none left to cry?
On June 6, 2013, I felt this pain, and I am sharing this today because I believe we need to address a problem in our society. Suicide, and the stigma that goes with depression leading to suicide, should be discussed openly. And treatment for depression and other mental health issues should be as accessible as treatment for any other health concern.
Samuel Austin Kloeppel made a decision on that June day, just two days before his 19th birthday, to take his own life. Many people had been oblivious to his pain and said things such as, “We never knew,” or “He seemed so happy!”
I discovered the true meaning of the phrase “ignorance is bliss.”
Sam and I had been in a relationship for almost two years. It ended about seven months before he died, but we maintained a friendship.
“I never thought I’d die alone
I laughed the loudest who’d have known?
I trace the cord back to the wall
No wonder it was never plugged in at all
I took my time, I hurried up
The choice was mine I didn’t think enough
I’m too depressed to go on
You’ll be sorry when I’m gone”
This is the first verse of “Adam’s Song” by Blink 182. About a year before Sam died, this was his favorite song. Every time I rode in his car, this was the first song to play on his stereo.
If that’s not a warning sign, I’m not sure what is.
I knew he was depressed. We talked about it and it was not a secret.
We all would like to think that Sam’s situation is unique, but this assumption is not true. According to information provided by the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide and TeacherVision, suicide is the third leading cause of death for teens.
Almost one in five high school students have seriously considered suicide. One in six have made plans to attempt suicide, and more than one in 12 have actually attempted suicide.
Twenty-five percent of high school students report suicide ideation, which is thoughts or an unusual preoccupation with suicide. That is one in four kids! Are you in that twenty-five percent? Is one of your friends or loved ones in that twenty-five percent?
The week of Sam’s death, I was on a band trip to Washington, D.C. On Wednesday, Sam contacted me and confided to me that he had no joy in living anymore and wanted to die. He told me the only reason he was telling me was that I was too far away to stop him. I was terrified. I called his parents and told them he should not be alone. I tried to maintain a conversation all day to distract him and I attempted to talk him out of his fatal feelings.
It didn’t work.
On Thursday, I was riding home on a tour bus. I was exhausted and sleep had calmed some of my desperate worries from the day before. I was texting Sam, but he was not texting about his depression or any of his problems. He had stayed home from work because he did not feel well. Looking back, that should have alarmed me so much more. We were not having an interesting conversation. Around noon, I received a text that only contained the word, “Yeah.” I responded with a “Mmmhm.”
He never texted back.
I arrived home around 2 p.m., took a shower after briefly saying hello to my mom and sat down in a chair. My cell phone lit up with a call from a mutual friend of Sam and I. I knew why he was calling. I answered the phone in dread and heard the horrible words.
“Sam killed himself.”
I’ll never forget that day, but I am much more intent on never forgetting the person that was Sam Kloeppel. He deserves to be remembered.
I do not want others to be unhappy, but I do hope that by reading my story, you felt some of my pain. I hope you think of how you would feel if your loved ones made this tragic choice.
Mizzou has some resources available for suicide prevention that should be taken advantage of. The educational program “Ask Listen Refer” is being used by MU and can be accessed at www.asklistenrefer.org/mu.
There are psychiatrists and psychologists available during office hours at the Counseling Center and the Student Health Center. If a student or faculty member is in crisis outside of office hours, there is a 24-hour hotline at 1-800-395-2312. Many universities have these resources, yet suicide remains the second leading cause of death for college students.
I believe this is because of the stigma that comes with depression and suicide. Depression is a medical condition and the leading cause of suicide, but many people do not treat it as one. We are uncomfortable talking about suicide and depression, so the issue is kept in the dark. A person is not ashamed to go get a cast if their arm is broken. Why should they be ashamed to get help for their depression? Don’t add to the stigma.
The signs are not always clear, and we are not always able to pick up on them. So always be kind. Always listen. Always make it clear that you care for those in your life and that they matter to you. Everyone has a role in this world only they can fill. It is always a tragedy when that role is left vacant, but even more so when someone resigns from their position in life by choice.
Recently, I walked in an Out of the Darkness Walk for Suicide Prevention and Awareness in Fulton, Mo. I am a member of Team Sam. Donations go towards scientific research, education programs for professionals, educating the public, promoting policies and legislation affecting suicide and prevention, and providing resources for survivors of suicide and those at risk. Donations will still be accepted until Jan. 1, 2014. If you are interested in helping this cause, please follow the link posted below to my personal page with more information.