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Suicide Prevention is a Community Issue

July 12, 2017

Thank you to everyone to Sue Klebold for sharing her story, and for everyone who attended A Symposium of Hope: Finding Your Role in Suicide Prevention.  As Klebold discussed in her keynote speech at this event, “those who are suffering can be adept at putting up a facade. Not only is it important to understand suicide warning signs, but it’s important to ask bluntly if someone has suicidal thoughts.”  If you or someone you know has thoughts about suicide, Foundation 2 is here to help.

Below is a Gazette Article covering the June 11th Symposium of Hope, hosted by Foundation 2 and Youth Port. You can also read the article online here.

CEDAR RAPIDS — Sue Klebold, mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the assailants in the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, wants Eastern Iowans to know what she didn’t about suicidal warning signs, intervention and misperceptions of mental health crises.

Klebold spoke Tuesday at the Symposium of Hope, a half-day event at the Cedar Rapids Marriott meant to raise awareness about suicide and prevention put on by Foundation 2, Tanager Place and Young Parents Network.

Klebold said she knew her son as a gentle, quiet and brilliant person. Even when he was a young teen, there were few signs that something troubled him, she said.

In high school, at Columbine High in Littleton, Colo., Dylan became friends with Eric Harris. During their junior year, the two were arrested after breaking into and stealing from a vehicle. About the same time, Klebold said her son got in trouble at school for the first time after scratching some lockers.

The two were put into a diversion program, similar to counseling.

“I remember asking, ‘Does this mean something? Is something wrong with him that I’m not aware of?’” Klebold recalled. “The diversion counselor turned to Dylan and said, ‘What do you think? Do you think you need to go to counseling?’ And I bet everybody in here will know the
answer to that question. He said, ‘No, I’m fine.’”

Klebold said the boys graduated from the diversion program and her family went to visit some of the four colleges that had accepted Dylan. He went to a prom. All seemed well with him.

But on the morning of April 20, 1999, she said she remembers hearing her son rush down the stairs and out the door far earlier than usual. She asked her husband to talk to Dylan later that day because it seemed that something was bothering him.

“I had not a clue that this was a life-and-death situation,” she said.

Klebold later learned her son, 17, and Eric Harris, 18, shot and killed 12 students and a teacher in the school, and injured 21 others, before killing themselves.

Klebold said she wishes she knew of her son’s suicidal ideology. She said if she had known, she believes treatment could have prevented it.

“We want to believe that we can see what is going on in someone’s head, we want to believe we can see evil,” she said. “When Dylan was feeling suicidal, Eric was feeling homicidal. Somehow these two people were connected.”

There were other warning signs Klebold said she learned only later, and there were multiple possible points of intervention, Klebold said. Dylan had seen a physician a few months earlier, and had written a school paper in which he described a murder.

“More than anything I regret my own failures as a parent. When I (read Dylan’s journal), I could see my son was suffering. By the time he was 15 years old, he was talking about being alone, that he wished that he could get a gun and kill himself. He wrote that he was cutting himself. I
never saw any cuts on him. I wish I had said to him, ‘Tell me something about yourself that no one else understands that causes you pain.’”

Klebold said she wanted the audience to understand those who are suffering can be adept at putting up a facade.

Not only is it important to understand suicide warning signs, she said, but it’s important to ask bluntly if someone has suicidal thoughts.

“Preventing suicide is a community issue,” Klebold said. “I had the assumption that love was enough, that my children could come to me. There are many steps between hearing that someone is suicidal and taking action. I want people to know not to freak out and shut down the
conversation.”

Most of all, Klebold said in an interview, she hopes Tuesday’s audience knows there is hope and others are learning that suicidal ideology is a medical condition.

“When those thoughts are persistent and taking up more and more of one’s time, they’re making a plan, it’s a progression.” she said. “They’re reaching a Stage 4 life-and-death situation.”

Okpara Rice, chief executive of Tanager Place, said he hopes the symposium encourages people to learn about suicide prevention.

“I hope they understand that this isn’t someone else’s issue,” he said.

Warning signs:
“There are people who show us that they’re troubled,” Sue Klebold said. But there are others,
such as her son Dylan, who work hard not to show their suffering.
Here are some of the signs to watch for, Klebold said:
—talking about being a burden to others or killing themselves
—might feel trapped or unbearable pain
—say they have no reason to live
—increased use of substances
—isolate themselves or withdraw from activities

—sleep too much
—visit people they haven’t talked to and give away possessions
—depression, anger, irritability or rage
Resources:
— National Suicide Prevention Hotline, available 24 hours a day: 1-800-273-8255

— ASIST classes: Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training is a 16-hour training that focuses on recognizing the signs of suicide, intervening and helping the person create a safety plan.

More information is available at Foundation 2: (319) 362-1170 or www.foundation2.org

l Comments: (319) 368-8516; makayla.tendall@thegazette.com

Makayla Tendall

The Gazette

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