Suicide affects thousands of families each year. Last year, many people were shocked to hear about Madison Holleran’s suicide. She was a beautiful, intelligent college freshman, but like many college students, she was having difficulty adjusting. Her suicide took her family by surprise and if you read her suicide note, it appeared to have taken her somewhat by surprise as well.
I’ve read a number of books on suicide and have unfortunately read a number of suicide notes during my career as a psychotherapist.
Reading suicide notes, especially from people who have completed suicides, can help us understand what that person was going through at that time and may be able to help us prevent other suicides.
Many times families and friends have no real ideal of the internal struggles and emotional pain that suicidal people are dealing with.
Madisons’ family recently released her suicide note to the public. If you’d like to read it, it gives a brief but heart wrenching account inside of Madisons’ mental and emotional state.
In an article I wrote previously Are You In Tune With Your Teenager, I discussed the importance of parents engaging their teenagers in conversation and actually listening to what they have to say. So many parents simply do not listen to their teens and in this one incident in particular, it proved to be deathly.
Last week, in Windermere, Florida, a very small town just outside of Orlando, 18-year-old Brandon Goode and 17-year-old Alexandria Hollinghurst, two troubled teens in love from Davenport, Florida, decided to run away together. They were both suicidal.
Alexandria seemed to have been suffering from depression while Brandon may have suffered from any number of mental issues (in 2012 his mother called the police reporting that her son had painted his face black and was threatening her with an axe).
Their relationship seemed to be as unstable as the typical teenage relationship, but much more so due to both of their emotional and mental health states. Alexandria’s family didn’t seem to like Brandon too much, and three days before they ran away together, Brandon wrote Alexandria a letter apologizing for the trouble he had caused her with her parents and thought it would be better if they broke it off so he wouldn’t continue to cause her pain.
In that letter which was partially made public, and previous letters, it was obvious that the two were in love and had an intense emotional relationship, even declaring themselves to be engaged. They had thoughts of running away to the west coast of Florida together and sailing a boat to Panama where they would get married and live happily every after. A teenage fantasy that they were determined to either make happy, or die trying.
On the day they ran away together, Brandon left a suicide note that said: “Please don’t be sad, this is what I want now, I get to die peacefully with the woman I love, the woman of my dreams, my fiance (Yes we were engaged!).”
Alexandria had written a suicide note a day earlier, stating to her mother: “If I had stayed another minute I would have painted the walls and stained the carpets with my blood, so you could clean it up,” she wrote in another letter to her mother “you turned a conversation about depression and suicide into something all about you.”
Her mom called the police who were there when Alexandria showed back up at her home. She denied being suicidal and the deputy left. The next day she ran away with Brandon. The two were immediately listed as “missing and endangered” and local and surrounding police officers went looking for them, even spotting them once before they drove off recklessly, only to later encounter Windermere police Officer Robert German as they walked along the side of the road.
Officer German immediately called for assistance, but it was too late. The teens shot and killed the officer before killing themselves.
Could the murder of this officer and the suicide of these two teens have been prevented? I’m almost sure it could have, but it may have taken some type of intervention a long time ago. However, I can’t help, but to wonder what if Alexandria’s mother would have really listened to her when she tried to talk to her about depression and suicide? Would she have been able to save her daughter, get her some help and maybe both her daughter and Officer German and maybe even Brandon would be alive today?
We will never really know, but I definitely think this reinforces the fact that parents really need to listen to their teens, make sure they understand what their teen is trying to say and DO NOT turn their conversation into a lecture or something about the parent. That’s not what your teen needs in that moment. They need you to listen, to be in tune with them and definitely to help support and guide them.
There is a lesson to be learned from every tragedy and I hope this one helps us learn to listen, communicate and pay attention to warning signs before it’s too late.