Pure Sole: Just tired

My grandmother committed suicide.

My mother did not talk about this much at all and I did not ask.

The method used was too simple, the reasons too complicated and the result too permanent.

I don’t think my grandmother knew what it would do to those of us left behind.

Suicide affects us all whether we know the victim or not. This one shaped my life.

My mother, then a very intelligent high school student about to make a difference in college at a time when women were largely ignored, instead was left caring for her two younger siblings and entering into what would become an unhappy marriage that left her stranded in Alaska with five children. She met my father and had two more.

Granted, life was good in our house and my mother was loving and providing, and we siblings have all had wonderful lives, some being more successful than others and others being more respected than some.

Among us we have attempted suicide, are alcoholic, have divorced, had cocaine addictions, craved abusive relationships, lacked desire, and we are depressed.

My mother battled depression.

If you knew my mother, you wouldn’t believe that.

She was outgoing, friendly and the center of attention when the Women of the Moose gathered for events.

She was an organizer for Cub Scouts and Little League affairs her children participated in and loved Parent/Teacher nights.

She worked long hours and multiple jobs to feed her brood and all with a smile that invited conversation.

Yet deep inside her large brown eyes there was a loneliness.

Even though she met and married the man of her dreams, my father, the illness lurked inside her.

She hid it well.

There were times I would find her, head in hands, tears in eyes, rocking in the hand-made chair my father built… not knowing why she was sad.

“Just tired, I guess,” she would say. “Just tired.”

To some degree that chemical imbalance passed on to myself and to my daughter.

We talk about this sometimes — when she isn’t mad at me for being an absent father.

She has taken prescription medication to wage her war; I tried other avenues to battle my feelings when I was her age and a younger and listless individual.

Sometimes we all feel tired, or we feel happy, we feel lost and we feel like we have found our path in life. During the bad times it’s important to know that there is help, in many forms, and people who understand. In Alaska, that help includes the Alaska Careline 24-hour crisis intervention center, 1-877-266-4357 (HELP).

On Sept. 27, more than 100 athletes gathered for the annual Hasty Half Marathon, a fundraising run for a designated charity or cause.

This year the monies collected were for the Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition.

The run started past False Outer Point and ended at the Sandy Beach picnic shelters.

Inside a shelter there was a large poster with a photo of Skylar Engle, who was born July 27, 1990. It read:

“The Little Crazy Girl”

Skylar Elizabeth Engle was only 24 years old when she died by suicide May 22, 2015.

From Skylar’s earliest years she loved all things creative and cause-worthy. She fought for LGTBQ rights during high school and served as president for the Gay Straight Alliance for three years. She was a dance team member all four years at Juneau-Douglas High School and graduated in 2008 with valedictorian honors. It appeared that Skylar was on a path to success.

Her sudden death took friends and family by surprise. Her parents, John and Sonja Engle, want you to know that she suffered with depression for over six years and was being treated for bipolar disorder.

Skylar had several risk factors for suicide but there were also signs that her struggle with depression was improving. Just weeks before her death she got a new job, was engaging and socializing with friends, and planning a vacation with her family.

At the time of her death, Skylar was completing a bachelor’s degree in art at the University of Alaska Southeast. Her finished works capture some of the pain she experienced. And journal entries tell a story of how humor and wit helped her deal with the darkness as long as she did, signing off as “The Little Crazy Girl.”

The shelter also listed the following resources:

• National Institute for Mental Health (nimh.nih.gov).

• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov/violenceprevention).

• Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (samhsa.gov).

• Suicide Prevention Resource Center (sprc.org).

• American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (afsp.org).

• Stop Suicide Alaska (stopsuicidealaska.org).

Posted at the shelter were the risk factors for suicide:

• Previous suicide attempt(s)

• History of depression or other mental illness

• Alcohol or drug abuse

• Family history of suicide or violence

• Physical illness

• Feeling alone

Also posted were these suicide facts:

• An American dies by suicide every 12.95 minutes.

• Americans attempt suicide an estimated 1 million times annually.

• 90 percent of those who die by suicide had a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death.

• In 2012, firearms were the most common method of death by suicide, accounting for 50.9 percent of all suicide deaths.

• For every woman who dies by suicide, four men die by suicide, but women are three times more likely to attempt suicide.

• More than 40,000 Americans die by suicide every year. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24. The suicide rate among American Indian/Alaska Native adolescents and young adults ages 15-24 is 1.8 times the national average.

• The cost: $44 billion combined medical and work loss costs in the United States each year.

The Hasty Half participants who gathered Sept. 27 ran for many reasons, as Juneau does love to run.

The bottom line, however, was suicide awareness and prevention.

They ran for Skylar, for a cousin, a neighbor, a friend — and for my grandmother, my mother, my daughter and myself.

They ran because, well, maybe someone out there is feeling tired right now. And because there are people willing to help and provide hope.

• For more local resources, visit the Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition’s website, juneausuicideprevention.org.

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