by Chano Itwaru
My tall and handsome 33-year-old son Kevin was smart, friendly, and charming. He was a biomedical engineer with a charismatic, dazzling smile, gentle personality. As a talented musician and artist he played the sitar, guitar, trumpet, piano, flute, Japanese Shakuhachi (flute), accordion, harmonium, Djembe (African drums), he produced many paintings. But Kevin had a secret. When he was 21 years old, he was diagnosed with clinical depression.
My son suffered in silence rather than face what he feared–the judgment and rejection of friends and family. He slowly isolated himself from lifelong friends. It was heartbreaking to watch him living in pain, but I stood beside him through the long journey with its many triumphs and heartbreaks. I became his fiercest advocate as he struggled with depression.
With his empathetic, caring nature he was able to talk down a friend who was suicidal. Yet two weeks later, on February 28, 2020 was the darkest day of our lives. Kevin tragically lost his battle to suicide, leaving his older sister, his father and me to mourn his loss.
Why didn’t my adult son seek help? For twelve years, Kevin tried many different forms of treatment–yoga, triathlons, marathons, jogging, music, singing, art, woodworking, church, therapy, and medication. Few understand what it is like to live with an adult who is diagnosed with depression. Kevin used alcohol to self-medicate whenever he had episodes of depression and anxiety.
Suicide is a conversation killer that stole my son’s life. More than a year later, I am in a different place. While losing a child to suicide is confusing, brutal, and presents layers of loss, there is hope. As I move forward in this insidious journey of grief, I am immensely grateful for the love and support from kindred spirits as I grieve, with more love than pain, the loss of my beautiful boy.
What do I do now? I am healing and finding hope through talk therapy and support groups. There is courage in survivors of suicide stories; hence, it is crucial that I share my story of love, loss and hope. I am using Kevin’s music to heal and learn more about his life. The many works of art and paintings he left tell his life story and contribute to helping my broken heart. Now, I am more connected with Kevin through his music and artwork, which is part of his legacy.
Why is mental health a stigmatized topic? I never thought that I would lose my son to suicide. I am sharing my story to heighten awareness of mental health and suicide prevention and the importance of having meaningful dialogs.
Our loved ones suffered silently. Yet we need to unite as a community to let our voices be heard and advocate for meaningful, societal changes to offer hope and support to people who are vulnerable. It is crucial to empower people to take mental health seriously and have open conversations about suicide and suicide prevention.
My hope is that my broken heart will help others, as we heal and care for each other through open communication and education.