I need to talk about suicide. This is a cry for help.
I've had an odd relationship with suicide and mental illness. I learned at a young age the harsh ramifications depression can deliver into ones life and onto those loved ones. I remember getting off the bus as a third grader and walking home with my friends. We were joking around like kids do in the kitchen when I saw the neighbor lady from the house adjacent to our backyard come running past and over to the neighbors house. The childish vibe suddenly took on confusion and fear. As kids we knew something was severely wrong. We went outside and noticed the adult neighbors rushing toward Nathan and Andrea's house. Nathan was my babysitter; his sister Andrea was my classmate and friend. Andrea and I had just gotten off the bus together not more than 15 minutes before. As we stood in the street and watched a horrific scene unfold we didn't know what we were seeing. Nathan took his own life that afternoon. I lost one of my earliest role models that day in the third grade. As kids we just sat in the yard and watched in mix of confusion and horror as one by one the police rushed in, the paramedics arrived, Nathan's mother collapsing in the front yard as the stretcher left the house. We didn't understand and in many ways we never will.
It was February of 2009. I was in New York City at a restaurant in Soho. We were having a blast exploring the city, celebrating a successful art show, and just living it up. I got a call from a close friend during dinner and for some reason I just felt something off about the call. I excused myself and stepped outside to answer the phone. On the other end I felt the emptiness in Paul's voice as he asked if I had heard yet. I hadn't and he proceeded to tell me that Erik was gone. As I began to pace up and down the sidewalk, the news swelling up within me as I processed, I simply sat down. Manhattan walked right around me as I sobbed into the phone in disbelief in the middle of the busy sidewalk. Erik was like a brother to me, and over the next few days as we put the pieces together there was simply nothing that could describe the loss and confusion. As we came together to mourn we were left to simply hug and cry there were no answers and certainly no sense. When I spoke at Erik's funeral I felt the piece of security that having him in my corner gave me evaporate with each word. He was gone and we all were now left to live out the emotions of his absence.
My cousin Joey was a goofy kid. He saw the world through humor and a clever and refreshing satirical sarcasm. I think he was proud of this, as if he knew something the rest of us didn't and whatever that was, it must have been funny. Joey and I shared a creative spirit, he wanted to entertain with his creativity and through that we bonded. Though much younger than I, I loved talking to him about things. I was simply put, a fan of Joey. His art was his outlook on life and his ability to convey that spirit. Quiet at times, but through the silence built the beauty of what was spoken when he decided to deliver. "The sun never sets on cool." he'd just drop these bombs of insightful and entertaining one-liners, hit you with an effortless, casual smile, and simply mosey down toward the meatballs. His subtly was comedic genius. On the early morning of March 28th, 2015 Joey drove home from work and for reasons we will never know or understand decided not to go inside. Joey battled his own internal demons and the monster symptom of that disease took hold that night with a grip that was just too strong. The next day as our family gathered at Joey's home I paced the field next the driveway looking for some sort of clue. An answer, some logic, maybe a reason but the fact is those things don't live in the wake of these tragedies. My family sat in disbelief and shock. Joey's suicide crippled us. We cried and hugged, we stared off into space lost in a confusion of guilt and anger and sadness... And we grew closer.
Suicide is a very real issue that often gets quieted by uncomfort. It's hard to address and hard to talk about, and even harder fight internally as a symptom many of us have experienced. It has probably existed in all of our lives in one form or another. I hate suicide. I hate what it does to a victim. I hate what it does to those left behind. In today's world where there is so much opposition and need for activism this is an issue that I will fight for to no end. If you've ever been affected in any way by suicide you know how difficult it can be to even acknowledge. It affects us all, there is no segregation of color, finance, privilege, or any other classification you can put a human being into that is safe from mental illness. My family is walking together on September 27th at 8am as Joey's Survivor Squad in the Out Of Darkness Walk at the Mall of America. This is my cry for help:
I am aiming to raise donations for our team, "Joey's Survivor Squad". My personal fundraising goal is $1,500.00. My family has set a goal of raising $6,000 before our walk on September 27th. We will walk together in honor of Joey and everyone else that has been lost to suicide or is affected by mental health struggles. We invite anyone to join us on the 27th as Joey's Survivor Squad. I am personally offering a hand-signed print of my own artwork to anyone who donates $10 or more in my name. This is a 100% tax-deductible donation to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
If you would like to join us please contact me on Facebook.
Please feel free to share your own stories in the comments section. Thank you so much for reading and your contribution. Please follow this link to my donation page:
Sincerest Thank You,
"The Sun Never Set's on Cool."- Joey