Malette Lee had heard about suicide and seen it discussed in movies, but she never expected it to have a direct impact on her.
On Nov. 5, 2011, it claimed the Galliano resident’s oldest son, Brody Williams. He was 23.
“He was my baby. He was my world,” Lee said. “I never thought my world would be touched by suicide. ... (Now) I’m not afraid to ask somebody if they’re suicidal. I’m more afraid of losing another kid.”
Williams would skip school sometimes, which his mother just chalked up to being a teenager. He dropped out to begin working when his then girlfriend became pregnant.
He would say he hated his life. He wouldn’t sleep, and he started drinking frequently.
“I just thought he hit a rough patch in his life,” Lee said. “We were as close as a son and mom could get, or at least I thought we were. I thought if he were having problems, he would talk to me. But he never once told me, ‘Mom, I’m in a dark place in my life. I need help.’”
Williams left behind two sons, who were 4 years old and 10 months old at the time of his death.
Lee urged anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide to talk to someone rather than holding onto their feelings. She’s seeing a therapist for post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing Williams’ suicide.
“Asking for help is not a sign of weakness,” Lee said. “It’s actually a sign of strength.”
For Williams’ birthday last year, the family enjoyed some of his favorite foods: Mexican chicken and king cake. They sang “Happy Birthday” and shared fond memories.
Lee described her son as a likable person who kept everyone laughing. He was hardworking and a good friend and father, she said.
For anyone considering suicide, Lee has a message: “Life gets better.”
“Realize that just because you’re having a bad day doesn’t mean that you’re going to have a bad life,” she said. “Don’t let it come to your mom and dad having to bury you. And don’t ever think they won’t miss you.”
‘A SERIOUS ISSUE’
Recent celebrity suicides and the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” which depicts a high school student ending her life and the explanations she gave for it, have brought the subject to light.
But George Raab, who serves on the board for the Louisiana chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said there’s still a stigma attached to suicide and some consider it taboo to discuss.
“Instead of trying to recognize and understand (the signs), we put it off as they’re trying to get attention or this is just something that will get better,” he said. “It’s been so under the carpet, more or less. It’s just starting to come out. We find that when we go out and let people know about this, we get some looks and remarks that are negative about it, like we shouldn’t be talking about it. This has really become a serious issue.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide was the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States in 2015. Over 44,000 people died by suicide that year.
The Lafourche Parish Coroner’s Office reported 19 suicides last year and 12 so far this year. Numbers were not immediately available from the Terrebonne Parish Coroner’s Office.
Raab said if a normally talkative person becomes very quiet, the person may be considering suicide.
“If they’re acting differently from the way they usually act, that could be a sign,” he said. “Don’t judge them, don’t try to give them a way out. Just listen to them. Then you want to make sure they’re in a safe place. Once you do that, try to get them to go to a professional counselor. ... If they’re talking about dying or wanting to kill themselves, they’re not looking for attention. You’ve got to take it seriously.”
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, asking someone if he or she has thought about suicide isn’t likely to encourage such thoughts. Experts suggest asking if a possibly suicidal person has a plan and then removing his or her access to lethal items or places.
Jane Pearson, chair of the National Institute of Mental Health’s Suicide Research Consortium, said people sometimes oversimplify the issue.
“There may be a lot of issues going on,” Pearson said. “It wasn’t just the bullying, or maybe the bullying had taken all kinds of forms. We don’t usually know the whole story or how somebody looked at the whole thing. We often try to think about how reducing bullying itself might be helpful in just reducing the risk of suicide completely. ... What if we were able to reduce child abuse and neglect? It would probably reduce suicide. It would reduce a lot of things.”
‘THERE WERE NO SECRETS’
Thinking back on her husband’s suicide, Madeline LeBlanc recognizes possible warning signs she didn’t catch.
He refused to go to funerals. The week before he died, he’d stopped going for walks with her.
Matthew Carr was abused as a child and removed from his home. He was in two helicopter crashes during his eight years in the military. He’d previously attempted suicide but was doing better with therapy and medication.
“There were no secrets between me and Matt,” LeBlanc said. “I knew every one of his demons. He always woke up when he had his nightmares, and I would be able to calm him down. It was normally his helicopter crashes. He was paralyzed from one of them for months; he had spinal shock. When somebody says it’s selfish, they truly don’t know what was going on with the person.”
Carr died July 28, 2015, inside the couple’s house in Houma. He was 38.
LeBlanc said he’d been a little short with her, but it’s not unusual for someone with PTSD to have mood swings. He’d helped with the dogs while she got dressed for work, told her to have a good day and then gone back to sleep.
Hours later, she had lost the man she called her best friend.
LeBlanc said her husband was kind and caring. They met in paramedic class and worked together at Acadian Ambulance before he became a dive medical technician for Falck.
“We were both on night shift in Houma,” she said. “If I ever needed help, he would be the first one on the radio. ‘I’m not that far. I can go help her.’ ‘No, Matt, you’re on another call.’ ‘But where I’m staged, I can go help her.’ ... Every day, I would make his bed. I would have a timesheet for when he was supposed to take (his medicine). I had alarms on his phone. I took care of him like that, so I guess while we were at work, that was his way of returning the favor.”
LeBlanc couldn’t bring herself to part with their house or two German shepherds, one of which was Carr’s PTSD dog.
She said one of the misconceptions about suicide is that it’s necessarily a selfish act.
“Most of the time, it’s someone that thinks everyone around them would be better off without them,” she said. “That’s absolutely not true. Every single person on this earth has one person – at least one person – that cares about them all day, every day.”
Staff Writer Bridget Mire can be reached at 448-7639 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @bridget_mire.
If you are considering suicide:
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Someone is available 24/7, and all calls are confidential. Veterans should dial that number and then press 1, or text 838255. For more information, visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Contact the Crisis Text Line by messaging 741741.
Chat with a Veterans Affairs responder at veteranscrisisline.net.
In an emergency, dial 911.
Posted on Fri, August 11, 2017
by By Bridget Mire, Daily Comet Staff Writer