In 1981, I was a college junior living off campus and enjoying my freedom away from home. I shared a duplex with three girlfriends and the other side of the duplex housed four male friends. Mick was my favorite. He was always starting a game of football at the park or trying to get a group to meet up to throw darts or looking for a ride to the library. As the fall semester began, as is common with college life, there were parties, sorority life, friends and classes. Life was great, or so I thought. One weekend, my life and my friend’s lives were changed forever — my friend, Mick, took his own life. Although not the first time I heard the word suicide, I hadn’t ever spoken to anyone about suicide.
What seemed so bizarre to me was that one day Mick and I were sitting on bean bags talking about the economics class we hated, and the next day Mick’s parents were packing up his belongings and take everything of his home, as if he had never been there. “Here today, gone tomorrow” become a pretty real phrase to me. Neither his parents nor the college spoke to us about what had happened — remember that this was the 1980s, when things like drugs and depression were simply not discussed.
Because there had been no discussion, it was hard not to turn my thoughts inward. Was I was naive enough to not really understand how one could be so hopeless or desperate that they would end their life? I had always been the one that my housemates came to when they wanted to share their emotional struggles, yet how did I not realize what Mick might be thinking about that October day?
On April 30, the Central Pa. Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention will hold the 11th annual Centre County Out of the Darkness Walk, beginning at noon. The walk will start at the Sidney Friedman Park. For more information, go to www.OutoftheDarkness.Org.
With the funds raised by the Out of the Darkness Walk, the chapter has been hosting Mental Health First Aid classes. MHFA is a public education program that helps identify, understand and respond to mental illness and substance abuse disorders. You can learn a five-step action plan — something I wish I had known in 1981.
Please come out and show your support on April 30 at the Out of the Darkness Walk. I will be there walking for Mick.
Brenda Witt Fry is the co-chair of the Central Pa. Chapter for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and director of business development for The Meadows Psychiatric Center & UCBH.