The year was 1987. Alf was popular. The Simpsons made its television debut. Three Men and a Baby, Good Morning, Vietnam and Dirty Dancing were tearing up the box office. Bad was released by Michael Jackson. Whitney Houston wanted to dance with somebody. Sandy Lyle, of Delphos, was 19.
It was the year her mother, 47, took her own life.
September is Suicide Prevention Month. This is obviously not a light subject. It makes some people uncomfortable. Many people would rather read a funny story about my kids or a descriptive piece about the onset of autumn. I never got more feedback from an article than I did when I wrote May’s column about bipolar disorder, though so, I felt compelled to write about this topic, as it is another taboo issue, but one that is important and real.
Sandy Lyle’s mother had attempted suicide twice before she actually committed it. Lyle remembers her mother as being “horribly depressed almost constantly.” She said, “She’d sit in her bean bag chair and smoke cigarettes. She didn’t do anything.” She revealed that her mother was also violent. “Dad wanted a divorce. Mom got so mad about it. She was going nuts; he was afraid she’d get a knife.”
Lyle’s mom and dad had been divorced 7 years when it happened. Lyle recalls her grandmother calling with the news.
“She was crying hysterically. That Mom had actually done it. Dad said, ‘No, it’s just another cry for help; she didn’t do it.’ I drove as fast as I could. They were carrying her body out.” Lyle said, “She had taken pills. She had gone into the bathroom to try and throw them up. She was walking back into the bedroom when she hit the corner of the dresser and fell. That’s where she died. So many lives were ruined. I still have nightmares to this day,” said Lyle. “I am sad. I didn’t want her to die.”
While many people have never been personally affected by suicide, it is not uncommon. In Allen County alone, there were 16 suicides from January 1 to December 31, 2011. People need to know that there is help, and it is local. You can call 1-800-567-HOPE at any time, and the We Care Crisis Center, located on 797 S. Main St. in Lima, is open 24/7, no appointment necessary.
The Summit on Suicide Awareness and Prevention is coming up on September 18, which will offer information for the professional, the educator, the minister, and families looking for answers, such as verbal and non-verbal signs, and actions that can predict threat of self-harm. You can register to attend the summit by going to www.wecarepeople.org.
The 6th annual Suicide Walk is also approaching from 10 a.m. to noon on Sept. 29. It begins at the We Care Crisis Center, where attendees will walk to the Lima Square and back. There is no pre-registration for this. There will be raffles, T-shirts for purchase, and a provided lunch. There will also be a ceremony and balloon release to honor those lost.
There are some signs that a loved one might be contemplating suicide. Losing interest in people one loves, losing interest in activities, and exhibiting signs of depression are all signs. Also, giving away belongings, and a sudden surge of happiness denotes that the person has made plans and is at peace with his or her decision. http://www.stopasuicide.org/ is a great resource which provides an extensive list of signs.
As for those going through the pain and devastation of a loved one who has committed suicide, Sandy Lyle said, “Be sure to take care of the person who is ill, but also take care of yourself. You can’t control what people will do. You can watch the depression, the attempts, but in the end, you can’t stop them.”
While not every suicide can be prevented, as was unfortunately the case with Lyle’s mother, there are resources out there. Some suicides can be prevented. But if not, as Lyle said, “Don’t blame yourself.”