Chesterfield parent who lost son to suicide partners with county to raise awareness

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A Chesterfield County parent who lost his son to suicide has partnered with the county to try and raise awareness and prevent others from experiencing a similar tragedy. It’s part of a month long Suicide Prevention Campaign.

“May 18, 2011 is a day I’ll never forget. That was the day that my youngest son Mark died by suicide.”

That’s Chesterfield County parent Kevin Skellett, appearing in a powerful promotional video for Chesterfield County. The video is one of several aimed at raising awareness for what has become a serious and common problem.

8News reporter Mark Tenia sat down with Skellett who described to him what it was like the day he found out his son Mark had taken his own life.

“It’s a very lonely, a very empty feeling — it’s a feeling that never goes away. I changed that day. I can’t go back to the person who I was before,” Skellett said.

Skellett said he had seen red flags.

“He would have tremendous mood swings. He would be OK and then he would be very angry,” Skellett said. “He would switch back and forth from those very quickly.”

Like many parents, he says he chose not to talk to his son about suicide.

“Because I thought that I would put the idea in his head, if he didn’t have it already and that’s something I didn’t want to do,” Skellett said.

“People think that it’ll pass or what these kids are going through is not that big of a deal,” said Melissa Ackley, with Chesterfield Mental Health Support Services.

Ackley says suicide is one of the leading causes of death for kids as young as ten and young adults. She says seeing the signs may save your child’s life.

“Loss of a relationship, a loss of self-esteem, a loss of a job.” Ackley said. “They talk about experiencing pain, maybe physical pain, often emotional pain.”

She says if you suspect something’s wrong, ask your child if they’ve thought about suicide.

“To ask that question is the most important step and then let them know, ‘I want to help you and there’s help available,’” Ackley said.

“If I could do anything to help prevent someone, other parents, other siblings from experiencing that, that’s what I want to do,” Skellett said.

If you would like help or have any questions, you can call the following numbers:

  • Chesterfield Crisis Intervention – 804-748-6356
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

The county also has two upcoming events as part of its campaign to raise awareness and prevent suicide.

Raise Your Voice about Suicide Prevention

What: A workshop, open to the public, about how to recognize signs that someone might be thinking about suicide and provide an initial level of response.
When: Tuesday, November 14th, 7:00-8:30
Where: FACES, 11601 Lucks Lane, Midlothian VA 23114
Contact: For more information, contact Jill Weiseman at (804) 378-0035

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

What: Survivor Day is the one day a year when people affected by suicide loss gather around the world at events in their communities to find comfort and gain understanding as they share stories of healing and hope. This event is for those who have lost a loved one to suicide, and not individuals who have survived a suicide attempt. In addition to speakers about suicide loss and grief, there will be screenings of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s films, “The Journey” and “The Journey Revisited.” Last year, there were more than 350 Survivor Day events in 18 countries.
When: Saturday, Nov. 18, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Where: Southside Nazarene Church, 6851 Courthouse Road, Chesterfield
Contact: Jill Weiseman, 378-0035 or facesorg1@verizon.net

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