By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.
Thoughts of suicide need to be taken seriously. If you or someone you know is thinking of suicide call the crisis line at 988, call 911, or go to the nearest emergency room or counseling center that has immediate availability. You can also Text CONNECT to 741741. You could also download the app MCHELP.
Here are questions to ask. Make sure you spend a lot of time listening.
- Are you thinking of hurting yourself or suicide?
- How would you if you did?
- How easy would it be to do that?
- What would you do to prepare for hurting yourself or for your death?
- Is this the best answer for you?
- How often do you think about hurting yourself or suicide?
- What about your future plans?
- Do you think your situation will improve?
- Have you ever been violent, hurt yourself or attempted suicide in the past?
- Do you feel like you cannot take what you are feeling or the stress you are experiencing must stop now?
- Are you on the impulsive side?
- Are you feeling alone, down?
- Is there any substance use?
- How are you sleeping?
- Are you feeling any guilt or blame?
- Are there any recent losses, or anniversary of a loss?
- Have any family members, loved ones, or friends committed suicide?
- Any recent deaths of family or friends?
Here are some more questions to ask to build-in resistance to suicide. The person will still need to talk to a professional as soon as possible. Remember, suicidal people often feel that they cannot be helped.
- What is one thing that would change your thinking about suicide?
- What reasons do you have to not hurt yourself?
- How to you think this will this affect your family and friends?
- Do you have any fear of death or the impact on your family and friends?
- Instead of a plan for dying, do you have a plan for living or any role models you could use?
- Who do you turn to for help?
- Do you have spiritual beliefs?
Here are questions not to ask. They encourage a negative response and suggest that you are frightened by the intensity of emotions.
- You’re not thinking about suicide, are you?
- You’re just kidding about killing yourself, right?
Do say, “I want you to live,” or “I’m on your side . . . we’ll get through this.” Get others involved. Follow-up and show that you care.
“Each time he came to me,except for the last time”™
Johnsburg mother remembers son who committed suicide
By SARAH SUTSCHEK – [email protected]
Scott Walz first attempted suicide in the sixth grade.
“He said he tried in his room, and when he started to pass out, he got really scared,” said Scott’s mother, Nancy Walz. “He came down sobbing to me and told me what he did. Each time he came to me, except for the last time.”
On March 4, Scott Walz hanged himself in his bedroom. He was 18 years old, only a few months shy of graduating from Johnsburg High School.
According to Mental Health America of Illinois, the 15-to-19 age group has the highest suicide attempt rate in Illinois and accounts for 6.5 percent of suicide deaths.
There have been 10 deaths ruled suicides in McHenry County so far this year, Deputy Coroner Robert Locke said. Scott’s was the first confirmed teen suicide, followed by a 19-year-old in Crystal Lake, but police have handled at least one more death where the initial investigation indicated suicide.
Of the county’s 29 suicides in 2009, only one was a teen, a 15-year-old.
A huge “Star Wars” fan, Scott used to have lightsaber battles with his best friend on top of a neighborhood hill.
He loved the band Queen, especially the song “Somebody to Love” and the video game “Gears of War”
Martial arts were a huge passion; he was a second-degree black belt who had begun to hone his weaponry skills, especially with the samurai sword. He also helped teach women’s self-defense classes.
A member of the Johnsburg Police Explorers for three years, Scott wanted to be a police officer when he grew up, specifically a SWAT team member. He also wanted to run his own martial arts school.
At school, he was a member of the drama club, mostly working behind the scenes.
“I didn’t realize until after his death just how much he did there, how passionate he was about drama club,” Nancy Walz said.
He was called “Rafter Boy” for his work up in the catwalks, but he also had small roles in “Beauty and the Beast” and “Look Homeward, Angel.”
Sitting on the living room couch, Nancy Walz held a teddy bear that Scott had been given. On its head was a badly worn Cubs hat that Scott would refuse to take off.
The things that often drove her crazy when her son was alive are now the things she hangs onto the most, she said. Like that smelly hat.
Scott’s death has been hard on his brother and sister, 15-year-old twins Ryan and Emilie.
“I always teased Emilie and Scott, because I said, “Oh my gosh, you guys are the twins,” Nancy Walz said. “They’re so much alike.”
Lunchtime has been especially difficult for Emilie, because that was when she would see Scott at school.
“Ryan is the thinker, the obsesser,” Nancy Walz said. “It’s starting to hit him now. Everybody’s got their time frames in the grieving process.”
The family constantly talks about Scott, she said.
“We talk about him in the present tense,” she said. “We don’t hide it.”
Nancy Walz and her husband, David, wanted to give their children old-fashioned childhoods. Video game and TV use was limited. No dating until age 16. A hug before heading to school every day.
“While some parents would let their kids be on the computer for seven hours, I would have seven hours of laughter and hearing kids playing.”
With depression on both sides of the family, Nancy Walz said she talked to her children about it early on, saying it would be easy for them to develop unhealthy behaviors.
Scott had many passions, but school was not one of them, Nancy Walz said. He wasn’t considered learning disabled, but had trouble keeping up with lectures because of delayed speech-processing issues.
“Having the predisposition, having the speech and processing issues, having the bullying … a lot of people can look as happy as can be, but then the demons come at night and when you’re alone,” Nancy Walz said. “For Scott, that’s what would happen.
Nancy Walz said the bullying began in third grade. In the fifth grade, it became physical.
“There was a lot going on in fifth grade,” she said. “His dog died; his best friend moved. The bullying was going on … they were getting him in the bathroom, calling him all kinds of names during gym and recess.”
After the first attempt in the sixth grade, Scott was hospitalized. While there, he told his mother that he tried to kill himself again in the bathroom.
He made another suicide attempt in 2008.
“That’s when I knew it was just a matter of time,” Nancy Walz said. “I had to face a parent’s worst fear because now I knew there’s a really good chance it was going to come true.”
Many people say suicide is a selfish act, but Scott thought he was being selfless.
“In Scott’s case, he truly believed and in his note, he said I’m a freak, I’m a creeper. Happy endings are for the good. I’m a burden and you’ll see just how much better off you are without me,” Nancy Walz said.
The Walzes aren’t hiding, and they aren’t ashamed. A banner hangs above their front door in his memory, and there are signs saying the family won’t be silent.
As a clinical social worker for a private company, Nancy Walz said she made no secret of her son’s struggles.
“In my work, people knew that I was human,” she said. “Not everybody knew what was going on, but those who I felt it was clinically appropriate, I would say, “I know your struggle.”
As if Scott had been going, the family went up to the high school before prom. They plan to attend the graduation ceremony for his class.
“I truly believe in all my heart [that] I used every resource I possibly could, that I did everything that we did everything as a family, as parents to save our son, Nancy Walz said.
But she couldn’t save him from himself.
“I couldn’t stop those thoughts in his head,” Nancy Walz said. “Kids are struggling so bad with depression, and it’s genetic, but it’s more what’s going on in their lives and how they’re being treated.”
Kevin Shelton, principal at Johnsburg High School, said that he spoke with both individual students and groups after Scott’s death. There are two boxes available for students to drop in notes about their concerns, and a tip line is being created, he said.
The school had an assembly earlier in the year, Rachel’s Challenge, focusing on positive behaviors and another one with a different speaker set up after Scott’s death.
A suicide forum facilitated by a mother whose 19-year-old son committed suicide also is being held at the high school at 6 p.m. May 28. It is open to the public. Teachers also will attend training earlier in the day.
“I don’t think you’re going to find a junior high or a high school not trying to make sure bullying is not happening at their school,” Shelton said.
While Nancy Walz doesn’t blame anyone for her son’s death “he made a choice,” she said “parents need to be held accountable.”
There are parents who are bullies, and they raise their children to be bullies, she said.
“It’s not just a school problem. It’s a community problem; it’s a social problem,” Nancy Walz said.
Copyright 2010 Northwest Herald. All rights reserved.