Freedom to Live
February 11, 2016
This week, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force came out with a first time recommendation that all adolescents, ages 12-18, should be screened for depression. As one expert interviewed by CNN put it, “They might look fine but without screening they fall thru the cracks.” The statistics on teen suicide are disturbing, but the personal stories are heart-wrenching.
The following story is upsetting, but sometimes it is our obligation to confront some of our strongest emotions and fears so that we can comfort those who are suffering and hopefully help others avoid difficult times. We asked Dr. Wendy Matthews, an adolescent psychologist in private practice to introduce this post:
Suicide is ‘a permanent solution to a temporary problem’. But young people sometimes view their present reality as their eternal reality and act upon it as such. Getting inside their child’s ‘reality’ is not something most parents or friends can do. The parent below, who had a close and loving relationship with her child, did everything right: offered love and support freely, arranged for counseling, consulted with professionals, etc. But her son acted upon his own internal and private thoughts, which were out of range for even the most attentive parent. Signs of suicide can be glaring (declarations of wanting to end their life, mentions of an actual plan, giving away their possessions, losing interest in their usual activities or relationships, etc.). But they can also be elusive. Sometimes, the act is so impulsive that the youth didn’t have a plan, but simply saw an opportunity and grabbed it. Losing a child is the most painful experience a parent can endure. All one can do is survive in a way that honors the child, and honors the ‘survivors’ (siblings, parents, extended family, friends, acquaintances, even the community at large).
The following was written by Lisa Sprague
I have been given an opportunity to write about one of my favorite and also most painful topics, my son Jordan’s life and his death.
Jordan was our firstborn. He came into our lives on a hot summer day in August 1990. We were only 23, high school sweethearts, newly minted college grads, newly married and new parents. This tiny human amazed me. He was perfect in every way and he began teaching me how to be a mother from his first breath. A job I loved from the start. One that led me to give Jordan five more siblings over the years. I guess he was an extremely good teacher. Jordan’s life was very short. He left us on a hot summer day in July 2010. The void, the loss, the way he died could destroy you if you allowed it to.
Jordan grew into an awesome young man. Always shy, always more serious than his siblings but so much fun to be around. He loved to tease his sister Kate and brother Jack and did so with great gusto. They were closest to his age, but with the younger ones he was different. He took time with each of them and they adored him.
Jordan had as close to a perfect childhood as anyone could ask for. He lived on a cul de sac with other kids. Summer nights were spent playing manhunt and winters were all about snowmen and hot chocolate. We felt very good about the life we were giving our children. Life was very good.
As a teenager, Jordan was teased, but we talked with him and we all commiserated and shared our own stories as children. It was a normal part of growing up. We moved through the typical bumps of those teenage years and rounded the corner on college. After an exhaustive search, Jordan chose Rutgers. He was so proud of his school. First semester brought some homesickness and other adjustments, but by the beginning of second semester it looked like Jordan was really hitting his stride. Friends, a new girlfriend, etc., his star was rising.
Sometime in second semester Jordan began to suffer some insecurities. We spent a lot of time talking. Jordan and I were exceptionally close and I felt so blessed to have such an open relationship with him. I trusted him. It was decided that he would go to counseling at Rutgers. Within weeks he decided he didn’t need this anymore and stopped. I trusted his judgment. He seemed like he was in a better place. In the weeks preceding his death he said that ‘Rutgers was the closet thing to heaven on earth.”
In June, just after completion of freshman year, he mentioned that he felt sad. We had a much more serious conversation this time around and my husband and I decided Jordan should see a counselor at home, so off he went. After being put on a low dose anti depressant Jordan was his old self again. Summer 2010 looked bright and we were back on track. We felt as parents we had done everything right and that this was just a small bump in our son’s life.
Our lives were forever altered; our inner axis permanently shifted July 31.
That beautiful boy was gone. His loss and the way he died, SUICIDE, was catastrophic. In the midst of our grief we searched for reasons why, we berated ourselves for not seeing this coming. We bled feeling the pain he must have suffered to bring him to this point.
In the end, the truth is that you put one foot in front of the other. My husband’s life and mine will never be the same, but we will strive to find peace and happiness. We made our other children our top priority. They are survivors, we are survivors. If I could give any advice or wish for any changes here is what they would be:
In talking with Jordan after he went to see the counselor at Rutgers I believe she knew something. Because of the way the current laws are set up I was not privy to all that happened during those sessions because at the ripe old age of 19 Jordan was suddenly an adult. I believe when there is any question of a possible suicide risk parents should be allowed to know this.
In the five years since we have worked many fundraising events to raise money and awareness for this terrible tragedy. My heart breaks when I hear about yet another suicide. I look at my surviving children as if they may burst into flames. Team Jojo lives. The Jordan Sprague Freedom to Live fund lives while my son does not. My greatest fear is losing him to history so I will continue to raise money, awareness and I will get to see my son’s name in current time. This is all we can do, because we must survive and we must strive to make a difference.
If you are in the Princeton area and would like to attend the Jordan Sprague Freedom to Live Gala on March 5th please click here. 100% of all proceeds and donations will benefit The Samaritans Suicide Prevention Center.