Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Behind the scenes of this week's cover story about suicide

Posted By on Wed, Mar 7, 2012 at 4:36 PM

click to enlarge suicidesm.jpg

It was one of those bitter-cold winter days, when the wind blows through your clothes and makes you feel as if your bones could turn to ice and shatter. Despite the cold, the sun floated in the all-blue morning sky. Tuesday, March 9, 2010 was a beautiful day.

I only remember the weather that day because shortly after I got to work, when The Inlander's offices were just a rock-skip away from the Monroe Street Bridge, I heard that someone had just jumped from the bridge.

A girl. She was 13 years old. My brain instantly froze that day in my mind.

For the past two years, that little girl — a doll-faced middle-schooler named Casey Holliday — wouldn't leave my thoughts. I wanted to know: What perilous pain could force a 13-year-old girl to teeter on the ledge of a bridge? 

The more I learned about her — from her family and her friends — I discovered something more that shook me: She was a writer, an artist, a joker, a music geek.

She was just like me.

I wished that I could have gotten to her and been able to tell her that life would get better, that tomorrow — or the next day — is beautiful, that life is full of so many surprises worth waiting for.

But as I found myself delving deeper into the story of Casey's life and death, I was shocked by what I found: the high rate of suicide in our region, our state, and our city. I was surprised at how everyone I said the word to — suicide — would bristle. I was shocked that more people had no idea that this young girl, two years ago, had died in the center of our city, while the rest of us clicked away at our keyboards and scrounged for change for the parking meters.

With the help of the Holliday family, we realized that telling Casey's story was a way to start talking about suicide as a mental health issue, but also the societal taboos we've built around the horrifying act.

Not only is silence not changing anything, but it forces those people left behind — like Casey's mother Carrie, her father Ron, her sister Sydney and her best friend Aryn — to toil endlessly over what went wrong.

My story, "The People Left Behind," discusses the issue of suicide, what we could be doing — as people, as a city, as media people — to bring it out of the dark and take steps to prevent suicide from happening in our community.

For Casey's sake, I only wish it's something we started talking about earlier.

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