Josh’s Story

“Josh was such a happy boy.”

“You know, he was just one of those kids who sort of blended in.  I didn’t really know him.”

“Josh seemed obsessed about his girlfriend.  Just check out the pics on his cell phone.”

“Wasn’t he the kid who’s dad left his mom for some other woman?”

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Those were just some of the comments that floated around the school the day after 15 year old Josh decided to take his life.  While some students were crying hard and were in a state of disbelief, others almost seemed indifferent to the suicide news.

After all, this was the fifth suicide within two years in a small school.  Was suicide beginning to be viewed as “the norm”–I hope to God not!

Although no one fully understands what causes a person to commit suicide, often time when you consider the risk factors and odd behaviors, the warning signs are there.  We desperately wish that this time it was an exception and there were absolutely no signs, but that’s seldom the case.

As I reflect back on the things I’ve learned about Josh, there were risk factors and warning signs…

Risk Factors:

  • Mental disorder – Josh had been diagnosed with bipolar depression three years ago.
  • Substance abuse – Like a lot of teens, Josh did his fair share of drinking and smoking weed.
  • Abuse – Josh was verbally and emotionally abused by his mother.  When his dad left, he promised to have Josh move in with him.  That never happened.
  • Firearms in the home – Josh was given a gun for his birthday.  He wanted to be able to shoot squirrels, woodchucks and rabbits.

Warning Signs:

  • Constantly talks or thinks about death – Last school year Josh’s English teacher had the students keep a journal.  They were given a variety of writing assignments and quite often could choose their own topic.  Much of Josh’s writing pertained to death and feeling as though life wasn’t worth living.
  • Appears depressed – Josh’s mom took him for counseling appointments for about four months because of his depression.  When Josh said that he didn’t get anything out of the sessions, his mom canceled the upcoming sessions.
  • Jokes about killing himself – When with his closest friends, Josh was the daring one.  He would walk along the guardrail of a cliff or drive super fast around a curve, joking that if he died at least he got to experience a thrill.
  • Loses interest in hobbies, sports, etc. – When Josh began dating his 17 year old girlfriend, he quit the basketball team.  A lot of his time was spent with her or alone in his room.
  • Tells people goodbye – The morning of the day in which Josh chose to end his life, he posted a message on Facebook: “Hey!  Today is the last bad day I’m gonna have.  In a few hours, it will all change.”

From what we can gather, Josh’s girlfriend was trying to break up with him.  He was in a rage.  His mom took his phone away from him at night and said that when he got home from school the next day, they would talk about it.

The next day came, mom went to work, and Josh skipped school.  He took the gun and ended his life about four hours after the Facebook posting.

The above risk factors and suicide signs are the compilation of information from several people after the fact.  When you read an isolated factor or sign, you wouldn’t necessarily think that Josh was suicidal.

However, if you had known all of this information, then it’s very evident that he was a hurting young man, contemplating suicide.

Nothing can be done to bring Josh’s life back.  But if his story can prompt others to really pay attention to the isolated risk factors or suicide signs in a person’s life, then good can come out of Josh’s situation.

If you sense that someone may be suicidal, do something about it.  At the very least, call your local suicide hotline and discuss it with a professional.

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