Melissa Lawson knows a little something about suicide. Less than two months ago, her 16-year-old daughter, Bethany Faith Lawson, killed herself.
“I just want everybody out there to know it is OK to not be OK. It is OK to ask for help,” Melissa Lawson told a crowd of about 150 people gathered a Bill Woods Park in Williamsburg Saturday morning for a one-mile suicide and bullying prevention walk, which was held in her daughter’s honor.
“I can tell you right now that suicide does not take care of the problem. It transfers their pain to a lot of other people. Bethany was one person. This pain that we feel – several people feel it – we can’t bring her back. There is nothing in this world that I would not have done, no measure that I wouldn’t have went to to help my daughter if I
had any idea she needed help. I loved her and I would have done anything.”
Melissa Lawson said she wants children to know there are numerous people out there that love them.
“If this ever crosses your mind, please ask for help, please,” Melissa Lawson said.
She also encourages parents to sit down and talk to their children, and go beyond asking how their day went.
“Every day we talked about her day and how things had went. I never sat down and said,
‘Bethany, have you ever thought about suicide,’ or ‘Bethany, if you ever were to think about suicide, you know you can come to me.’ I never said that to her,” Melissa Lawson said.
“When I heard about things like this, I felt terrible for that person and that family, but in my mind I thought to myself, ‘I am so glad I don’t have to deal with that. I am so glad that is not something that will ever effect me.’ Now I am living it. If you ever think about it, please get help. Please ask for help.”
Suicide survivor speaks
Williamsburg resident Mike Lay, who attempted suicide when he was a teenager, also spoke Saturday.
“I have a bullet in my head,” Lay told the crowd.
“You are afraid to go talk to your friends because you are afraid they will make fun of you. You are afraid to talk to your teachers because you are ashamed. You try to hide it more than you try anything.”
Lay encouraged people, especially children, to reach out to someone if they are contemplating suicide, and that they can even call him.
Lay said that now he realizes how precious life can be.
“I am so lucky to be here. God gave me a second chance for some reason. I know what it is for now,” Lay said. “If you need help, just talk to anybody, a stranger, anything. It is embarrassing. I know kids are thinking, ‘Hey, I don’t want to talk to this person because I am ashamed.’ Talk about it to a stranger. If one person would have walked up to me and said, ‘Hey Mike. How are you doing? Can I just talk to you for a second?’ then I wouldn’t have done it.”
Lay added that he had two friends, who went to the hospital to see him after he shot himself,
which meant the world to him and kept him from trying to kill himself again.
“Kids hurt so bad. People don’t understand when you are at that point, you don’t know what else to do. Please talk to somebody, a stranger or anybody. Please,” Lay said.
“Suicide affects everyone whether you realize it or not. Most of us have somebody that we know, who has suicided,” noted Cecelia White, emergency services director at Cumberland River Behavioral Health, which is also known as
Cumberland River Comprehensive Care. She was one of the speakers at Saturday’s event.
White noted several startling statistics regarding suicide, and in particular suicidal thoughts by young people.
In Kentucky, there is a death by suicide every 11 hours. For every completed suicide, there are also 25 suicide attempts where the person doesn’t die.
Statistics also show that someone, who dies by suicide, affects at least six people.
The Youth Behavior Risk Survey shows that 18 percent of middle school students in Kentucky had suicidal thoughts, 10.5 percent of middle school students had a plan for how they were going to kill themselves, and 6 percent attempted suicide.
In Kentucky high schools, 15 percent of students had thoughts of suicide, 13 percent had a plan and 8 percent attempted suicide.
For people ages 10 – 65, suicide is one of the top 10 causes of death for each age group.
Possible warning signs
White noted several possible warning signs for people to be on the lookout for in someone if you fear they might be suicidal, but she cautioned this is only a partial list.
“People that suicide typically talk about it in some way to some body,” White said.
A depressed mood can also be a sign someone is considering suicide, but White warns this isn’t always the case.
“Not everybody that suicides has a depressed mood. Once they decide to suicide, they sometimes come to a peace,” she said.
Other times people will make statements that their family or friends would be better off if they were dead or not around.
If someone isolates themselves or has irritability, this can also be a sign they are contemplating suicide.
“With teenagers this is harder to pick up on because teenagers are naturally irritable at times, and naturally isolate from their families at times,” White said.
Suicide prevention steps
“Prevention of suicide, the first step is to talk about it. The more you talk about it, the more people are going to be willing to talk about it to you,” White said. “The statistics and all the research shows you cannot make somebody suicidal. You can’t plant ideas in people’s heads.”
If you talk to someone about suicide and they tell you they are not thinking about it, trust your instincts.
“If you know the person really well, you need to trust your gut. Trust what your feelings are, and don’t go solely on their word if you know that person really well,” White said.
Keep them safe.
If someone tells you they are thinking about killing themselves, you should ask if they have a plan. If they have a plan, then disable it.
For instance, if your son or daughter plans to shoot themself, then remove all the guns from the house or lock them up.
The third step is to be there for that person.
“They have told you something that is very hard to talk about for everybody. Make sure you provide them with support,” White said.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
White noted that most teenagers prefer to text rather than talk.
“If they text, 741741 and they text ‘home’ to that number, there is somebody that will chat with them, text with them 24/7,” she added.
Getting the person help is valuable, but White noted that people also need to check on that person regularly to see how they are doing afterwards.
“The research shows that 24 to 48 hours after somebody has been hospitalized for suicidal thoughts is the most risky time even though they have just gotten out of the hospital,” White said.
“This is because they haven’t been able to get in touch with their therapist or other supports in the community yet. Be aware that just because somebody has gone to the hospital does not mean they are not suicidal any more. They may be saying the right words to get out of the hospital.”
Second walk this Saturday
Another suicide and bullying prevention one-mile walk is planned for this Saturday starting at Corbin City Hall.
Registration will be at 9:30 a.m., and the walk will start at 10 a.m. and will be lead again by 82nd Rep. Regina Bunch.
Eric Perry, an administrator at Cumberland River Behavioral Health, will deliver an address before the start of the walk.
The Daniel Boone Saddle Club is helping host the Benefit Ride for Bethany Lawson Saturday starting at 10 a.m. The ride will start at Pine Creek Church Road in London.
This is a $10 charge per rider, but children ride for free.
There will be a dinner at 3 p.m. The cost will be $6 per meal. An auction will be held at 4 p.m.
A memorial fund is being set up in Lawson’s memory, and funds will also be donated to Faith and Friends, which is a rescue sanctuary for horses that Lawson was passionate about.
Below are some links to resources you can seek if you or someone you care about needs help.
- Zero Suicide in Healthcare and Behavioral Healthcare – www.zerosuicide.org.
- Suicide Prevention Resource Center – www.sprc.org.
- National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention – http://actionallianceforsuicideprevention.org.
- American Association of Suicidology – www.suicidology.org.
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – www.afsp.org.
- National Council for Behavioral Health – http://www.thenationalcouncil.org.
- Cumberland River Behavioral Health (Comp Care) – (606) 549-1440 or (606) 528-7010.