My Brother Died By Suicide, But Depression Took His Life

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-xmasGregg 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.

gregg-and-drewHind 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.

gregg-icecream-oibDepression 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

family-pic-1997We 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:

#bethevoice  #stopsuicide #suicideonthebrain


13 thoughts on “My Brother Died By Suicide, But Depression Took His Life

  1. Michelle McCarthy

    My mom sent me your 2016 blog post because she thought we had a lot in common. I am a teacher in Murrieta, CA, and while I did not lose a brother to suicide, I did lose a student that was like my own child. I tutored him from Kinder to the Thursday before his suicide. I was blindsided! I never knew I needed to know about suicide until I was hit with this pain.

    That was August 2015. His family and I have started a non-profit called Project 99-Play for Life, Inc. We bring a panel of speakers to our local high schools to share our stories. We also work with our school district to ensure that we are not just focusing on academics but nurturing the whole child, which includes the social emotional needs. We hosted a 5K called Lights for Life, which brought the message out to our community. I would love to touch base with you at some point. You can check out our website at where you’ll find our contact info.

    Thanks for spreading the message!

    Michelle McCarthy
    Project 99 President

  2. leelee

    I found Nik Tebbe’s article today on FB, and then yours. Thank you for being the voice of the ones we lost. I lost my brother Thomas 1/7/15 to suicide. He, like so many others, had not suffered from depression/mental illness. He hid it extremely well, and he was extremely brilliant. I did see physical signs, and other small windows of him losing his secret battle. I have thrown myself into grief support groups, counseling and I thought my heart would not stop physically breaking, but it did, it does. Support and awareness is the only avenue to recovery. I hurt everytime I think of him gone from this earth. I hurt more when I try and understand his mental anguish and his unfortunate solution to it. Prevention and advocacy is the only hope we have for others. THank you for sharing your story. Your brother’s story breaks my heart, your courage gives us strength to go on. Love & Hugs ~lisa

  3. Missy

    I just lost my older brother(42) 12 days ago to suicide. We are devastated. He suffered for 20 years with bipolar/manic depression. I would not wish that ugly disease on my worst enemy. I am waiting to wake up from the nightmare.. Where do we start to begin to heal? I need suggestions. We are in the Greensboro area.

  4. Anonymous

    I just lost my 42 year old brother to suicide 12 days ago. A childhood friend of his sent me this article. He has suffered from bipolar disorder for 20 years…. He had just gotten through a manic episode when his depression set in. We didn’t know it was at this level. I plan on walking in the Triad Walk. This pain is so fresh and new… We are in a bad nightmare just waiting to wake up. The only comfort I have is that he is no longer in pain or suffering. That is what’s getting me through right now. My thoughts and prayers to everyone that has been through this terrible journey…

  5. Anonymous

    Thank you so much for being willing to share your story. I am certain you will help others by posting this, but I am sorry for your loss.

  6. Kathy Cummins

    So very sorry for your loss. When I read your story about your brother it sounds all but familiar the depression the deep pain wanting to end. I lost my younger son Ryan on 11-09-13 at the age of 20. He left a letter stating his mind could not go on.

  7. Shannon

    My 17 year old son, my only child, died by suicide February 20th this year, but depression and anxiety took his life. Unlike Gregg, Kyler did not hide it. We desperately tried everything to save him, but we could feel that time was quickly running out. I am walking in the Out Of The Darkness Walk in Triad Park. I had not heard of B4Stage4 until this.Thank you for sharing your brother’s story.

  8. Kate

    Thank you for speaking out unapologetically about the impacts of depression and suicide. I have lost two childhood friends to suicide in the past year, and have found that the toll is even greater when people don’t talk openly about it. I am so sorry for your loss, and wish you the best in your efforts to raise awareness.

  9. Betsy Slat

    God bless you for sharing your story. It was sad and riveting. We should all be so much more compassionate and aware. Depression is an illness as deadly as cancer, as unfair as dementia, as real as a coronary event. Depression is nobody’s fault- it is not a sign of weakness.

  10. Sally schlindwein

    Beautifully said Nikki. I remember all of you when you were little and your mom and I remain friends to this day. I cannot imagine the pain Greg was in and all of you are in now. He was a handsome boy and grew into a handsome man. Very talented and much loved. He had a disease and could not see a way out but death. I think of all of you often and say many prayers for all of you. I do believe Greg is still with you and that you will keep him alive thru all your good works.

  11. Katie

    I am so sorry to hear this. Your brother looks like a beautiful soul ~ I will keep you all in my prayers. Thank you so for sharing this story with us here at TMoM. I’m sure it was not easy to write, but such an important message to share.


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