#SeeMe Video and Q&A: I'm Not My Regret. I'm Kristen.
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My name is Kristen. Watch this video and read my Q&A below to see me as someone whose pain has given me a purpose. My family experienced suicide and I have become passionate about suicide awareness and prevention.
I think everybody needs to be aware of the signs of suicide and know what to do if they see any signs.
Q: Why did you want it to become a QPR trainer?
A: Well, our son died by suicide and it was a total shock. We knew he had some struggles. He was seeing a counselor, but suicide had never entered our mind. It was nowhere on our radar, and we really knew nothing about the signs or symptoms of suicide. So, after a time of searching I decided I wanted to find out more about suicide and what I could do to make other people aware of the things that we missed. I attended a QPR training and thought, I can do this. I think everybody needs to be aware of the warning signs of suicide and know what to do if they see any signs.
Q: What are some of the suicide warning signs that you think families should know?
A: The signs were there for our son, but we kind of missed some of them because we were in the process of a move. The biggest thing was that he started to give away some of his prized possessions. I did ask him about that, and he said, “We're moving.”. Another sign was he started distancing himself from some of his friends. But, again, the move kind of camouflaged that, too. It made it seem reasonable. He started having pretty violent mood swings. He was a happy kid, generally, but he would get really angry over what appeared to be nothing. He’d storm off and then he'd come back and seem fine. He started sleeping more.It wasn't until after he was gone that we found out his biological family had a lot of mental health issues that we were not aware of. Those are some of the things we saw that we didn't recognize as life-threatening for him.
Q: What were some of the things he started giving away?
A: Well, he was into music and he gave his guitar away. He took a lot of pictures down from his wall. He sold a lot of things that were special to him, personal things that I thought were really important to him. Then he took his high school senior picture off the wall and hid it. Eric never wanted his picture taken, but that was pretty dramatic.He knew I loved that picture of him. I was really shocked that he did that. Those were the kind of things that, had we been informed, should have triggered in our minds that this was serious.
Q: So as a QPR trainer, when someone walks out of that room, what do you hope to have imparted to them?
A: Well, just that suicide is on their radar and that they are aware of what to look for. I hope they would be able to recognize the warning signs and be able to think, “Hey, this person may need some help.” Then I hope they would know how to talk to the person about it, and how to recommend help for them.
Q: Can you talk about your locket?
A: Our son died in August and for Christmas that year, my husband got me a locket to put his picture in so that I could always have him near my heart. Then on the first anniversary of his death, my husband got me a sapphire ring. That was his birthstone. So that was another way that I can have my son close to my heart and near me always.
Q: What are some ways that have helped you cope?
A: Initially, our family, our friends and our church were so supportive. But then after awhile, it kind of got a little bit awkward. People just don't know what to say, how to say it. I did a lot of reading and I tried a couple of different support groups, and I finally found one that really fit. It’s three other women who have lost sons, similar age, to suicide. And we can just be totally open and honest with each other. Sometimes, even with your family, you don't know what to say because they're also dealing with their grief. I don't know, it's just really important to have some people that you can just really be totally open and honest with. Another way to cope was by trying to make good come out of a terrible thing, by getting involved in QPR. That's not only helped me, but hopefully, it will help others. I hope to have a positive influence. Even if I could just save one life, and one family from experiencing the pain of suicide, it wouldn't be worth it.
Q: What was the difference between how you could communicate with that support group versus how you felt you had to communicate with just the general public?
A: Losing my son is a very personal thing. With the world in general, I was hesitant to talk about it..Initially, we were supported and surrounded, people brought food and flowers. After a time, that faded away and people were afraid to ask how you're doing. It was kind of isolating. I feel like a lot of people had compassion, but it was kind of along the lines of pity. I tried to be strong, especially in public. I was very vulnerable in private.It was a different relationship with these women in my grief group. It was all mothers who lost their sons in relatively about the same time, about the same age. It felt that we were in the same place and could really share anything and everything.
Q: Are there any sort of misconceptions that you'd like to challenge with your stories?
A: I just never thought that a normal family with basically a normal child could face that situation..So I think, in general, people don't understand that suicide can touch anyone. I mean, any income level, any race or any age. Famous or not. It’s just something that is across the board and people don't realize that.