By Guest Blogger Nikki Warren
“I love you all. Bye.”
This was one of the last texts I received from my brother, Gregg, before he took his own life at age 35. Once I saw the text on my phone, my heart sank to the pit of my stomach. I felt like I was going to be sick. I knew what was coming and I begged him not to do anything. He proceeded to tell me that he was sorry for hurting me and he would never be healthy.
You see, Gregg died by suicide but depression took his life. Gregg did not want to die. He wanted to end the pain.
Gregg had a “perfect life.” He was very good looking, brilliant, successful, athletic, witty, and had the best belly laugh. Gregg graduated 3rd in his class from Charlotte Catholic High School, graduated Summa Cum Laude from Virginia Tech, Captain of the Virginia Tech swim team, won countless scholar athlete awards, traveled around the world, was fluent in Italian, played water polo, developed a patent for removing pollutants from coal burning plants, and at the time of his death, he was a commercial director for General Electric.
His life looks perfect on paper. Depression stole that perfect life from Gregg.
The pain, darkness and despair of depression made life too hard to live. Gregg wanted to live. We didn’t learn of his depression until after his first suicide attempt and he didn’t seek help at that time. Afterward, he tried to get help, but he waited until it was too late. He worked hard at getting better but his depression was too deep.
Hind sight is 20/20. Looking back we now realize that Gregg was napping a lot, would withdraw at times, and would often change plans at the last minute. Mental Health of America has coined the term “B4Stage4.” With all physical illnesses, there are symptoms that occur before an illness reaches Stage 4. You treat your cough, your high blood pressure, or your blood sugar before you are on death’s doorstep. We need to be aware of the symptoms of depression and mental illness so those who are suffering silently get the help they need before they reach Stage 4.
Last year, my family walked in our first Out of the Darkness Walk for The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Our team was called TEAM GREGG and we raised almost $20,000. This year, in honor of my brother, I am a Co-Chair for the Charlotte Walk. This is the only fundraiser in Charlotte that promotes hope and healing for survivors of suicide. This walk also brings awareness to suicide prevention activities in our community and brings mental health awareness to the forefront.
Depression and mental illness also have a stigma attached and that is often the reason why people don’t get the help they need. That is why I have chosen to be a voice for this cause. A few weeks ago, on September 8th, many members of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention waited outside of the Good Morning America building in NYC with their “Be the Voice” #stopsuicide t-shirts on in hopes of spreading awareness for Suicide Prevention Week (September 5-11). Sadly, GMA asked them to move aside and take their signs with them. GMA was quoted saying, “It is the top of our morning show. We don’t want suicide on the brain.” Well, let me tell you….once you experience suicide first hand, you ALWAYS have suicide on the brain. Everyone should have suicide on the brain.
Did you know…
- For every woman who dies by suicide four men die
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death
- Every 40 seconds someone in the world dies by suicide
- Suicide rates are highest in the spring
- Over half of all gun deaths are suicides
- 45% of those who die by suicide see their primary care doctor within a month of their death
We ALL need to BE THE VOICE and help make a change. Depression and mental illness need just as much attention as breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease. Join me in this fight. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think SUICIDE would affect my family. Never did I think SUICIDE would change my life forever. Never did I think my children would grow up without their amazing uncle in their lives. Never did I think I would lose a sibling at such a young age. And trust me, never would you, until it DOES.
If you are interested in helping me fight this battle in honor of my beloved baby brother, Gregg, here is my fundraising link.
If you are interested in participating in, and supporting your local Triad walk, it will be on October 22, 2016 at Triad Park. Registration begins at 8am and the walk is from 9-11am. If you have any questions contact: Meredy Swafford 336-287-0108 email: AFSP.NC.Chair@gmail.com
#bethevoice #stopsuicide #suicideonthebrain