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Families affected by suicide say: speak to your kids

Families affected by suicide say: speak to your kids

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -– Families who've lost loved ones to suicide are reaching out to parents and teens.

“I've experienced such a loss,” Wanda McCollom said. “And it's been the most horrible thing I’ve ever gone through.”

It’s an unthinkable tragedy--losing a child to suicide.

“He had so much to offer,” McCollom said. “He was such a good kid. And he was loved by so many people.”

But McCollom has lost two children--her daughter took her own life in 2015, and her son, John, took his life one year later.

“It leaves a hole in the family,” said Heather Escobar, John’s sister. “You just learn to live through the day that you're in, but it's not the same. It's never the same.”

And it hasn’t been the same for another family, which has experienced a similar loss.

“I'm holding a picture of my son,” Jackie Tucker said. “This was his junior year. To me, this is my son's senior picture--because he never got the opportunity to have a senior picture.”

Jackie Tucker lost her son, Ben, in 2016. Ben died within one week of John. Both attended Southridge High School.

“He had many friends,” Tucker said. “He was involved with marching band and cross country.”

These families, brought together by tragedy, hope to help others who are suffering.

“It was two days after Ben died,” Tucker said. “They stopped by our house, and that's how I met Wanda--in her grief--because her son had died the week before, and she stopped by to comfort us.”

Together, they talk about suicide--even though it's hard.

“It's something that needs to be talked about,” Escobar. “I think people think if we don't talk about it, it's not going to happen to our family. Well, we didn't think we had that problem either, but we did--not once, but twice.”

They said parents need to talk to their children about it.

“Just be honest and upfront, and ask the question,” Escobar said. ‘These are some things I'm concerned about. Are you thinking of suicide?’ There's no skirting around the issue, there's no sugar coating it when it comes to suicide.”

And teach your children to watch out for their friends--especially for warning signs on social media.

“Text 741-741, that’s the texting crisis hotline,” Tucker said.

They said they hope our community carries on their conversation, and knows there is always someone to talk to.

“It's one community,” Tucker said. “It is not just Richland High, or Southridge High School.”

These women are working on a new program--and a new support group--to help continue the conversation. If you would like to get involved, contact Heather Escobar at SOSBEAFRIEND@gmail.com.

Here is the suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255.

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