The people's voice of reason

Tears and Laughter: Twice as many Alabamians die each year from suicide as homicide

Very early in the morning on November 6, child in Etowah County notified Hokes Bluff police that a murder/suicide had taken place at her home. On November 1, in the middle of an ordinary day, a Vestavia Hills police officer stepped behind the Metro Diner, located next to the Vintage Barber Shop, and took his own life.

Sunday, November 5, a group of about 1500 people participated in the Birmingham Out of the Darkness Walk at Heardmont Park in Hoover. Everyone participating walked in honor of a loved one lost to suicide.

While not new, “Out of the Darkness” walks are becoming increasingly popular. In recent weeks there have been walks in Montgomery, Daphne, Dothan, and Tuscaloosa. Last Sunday’s walk raised $112,000 that will go toward research and helping finance suicide prevention programs.

In an open letter Eric Bartlett shared retrospectively his thoughts as he expressed his love for his 14-year-old son, Conner, who lost his life to suicide September 26. His dad laments, “We just didn’t even have a chance to save him.”

Connor had no signs of depression or mental illness and it is his father’s hope that when people understand the circumstances of Connor’s death that they will understand this can happen to anyone, anywhere. That we can’t assume anyone is safe from it, and that education and vigilance are vitally important.

When adults are stressed it is usually because of health, financial, or relationship problems. But with teens it is often social issues, being exposed to suicidal behavior through losing someone close to them, and not yet having the skills to process their stress.

“Connor never seemed afraid of anything in life. He sought adventure in life and didn’t fear the end of it. He was deeply troubled by the evil in the world and struggled to understand why there was so much suffering, so much meanness, and why people hurt each other.”

Bartlett continues to sift through the days and events that led up to his son’s death. He worries his expectations, which were not particularly unusual or overly high, may have still added to his stress level. He questions if he should have, “gotten into his phone more,” and wishes he would have made him quit organized sports and encouraged him to do more of what he liked. “He didn’t like structured sports and would have been happier not doing them. We always told him he could quit any time and he probably wanted to but he kept on because he was a gifted athlete and because he was a pleaser; he always tried to do what parents and adults expected of him and what would make them happy; he didn’t want to disappoint anyone.”

“I have come to realize that a child’s happiness needs to be of paramount importance and if they are doing something that is not making them happy they should find something else. Now that I’ve lost a child I realize how really unimportant his grades were. There are lots of great paths in life and maybe we should more let kids choose their own and encourage them to do only what makes them happy during their short time on earth.”

The National Suicide Crisis Hotline is 1-800-273-TALK.


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