Please use this blog to help us remember Joshua Lee Anderson, who made the tragic and fatal decision to take his life on Wednesday, March 18, 2009. Please post any memories or thoughts you may have in the comments.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

"Will To Live"

I don't know if it is just me, but every week, I hear or read about a heartbreaking story of another teen suicide.  I don't remember hearing very much "pre-Josh."  Were these tragedies always around, but I wasn't aware?  Did I see articles in the paper and just skim over them, thinking foolishly, "this does not apply to me?"  

This week, a family member sent Tim this link to a Boston Globe article about an ex-Red Sox player who is a "member of the saddest club on earth."  John Trautwein's son Will, age 15, took his life last October.  He sounds a lot like Josh,...he "had so many friends and he was big and strong and good-looking and popular."  And then the haunting words from the dad, "We really don't know."  What is left unsaid - the loudest word to parents like us: WHY?

They have started a foundation in his name called the Will To Live Foundation.  It is focused on getting "kids, teenagers and young adults involved in the fight against suicide."  The family's vision statement ends with this: "Quite simple, this community, your community cannot stand any more empty rooms!  Help us help out kids find the Will to Live and prevent teen suicide together!"

I agree with this approach.  In fact, my daughter and I have been talking about how best to use the money that has been raised in Josh's fund.  We have about $12,000 and while I feel guilty that it has not been deployed as yet, to find the right place has not been easy.  For we want Josh's fund to support local, school-based programs that provide awareness, education and prevention of teen suicide and it does not seem like Fairfax County Public Schools has programs of this nature.  As I wrote about in a previous post, many kids do not or will not talk to anyone about their problems.  This means, they are their own last line of defense.  In order to successfully fight the rising trend of teen suicide, we must get in front of the kids.

Because of another tragic suicide in our area, it may be that the Superintendent of Schools, Jack Dale is ready to acknowledge the issue and stand behind programs that would raise awareness of teen depression/suicide.  While he attempts to deny that FCPS has a Zero Tolerance Policy in this recent Statement to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, and calls the linking of Josh's and Nick's death to the county's disciplinary processes "unconscionable" (I can't even go there right now), at least he seems ready to tackle what we would like to see - programs that address the mental well-being of our youth.  (Update: article about this statement in today's Washington Post.)

I am inspired by what Will's parents are doing and agree with their words,  "If we save just one life, then Will's (or Josh's) legacy is forever."


pat said...

Thank you for sharing your story through this blog. Your willingness to share honors Josh by helping all who read.

Donating funds from your Josh blog to organizations dedicated to preventing teen suicide would clearly honor his memory.

But as I read Josh's story in your blog and the stories of others in the zero-tolerance universes, it seems that the salient problem here, clearly, is any inflexible one-size-fits-all disciplinary policy for teenagers.

Teen suicide is multi-faceted and complicated. But within the context of what happened to your beautiful son, it seems that we must stop adding to the burdens of the adolescent experience by subjecting kids to disciplinary experiences which make them feel trapped, shamed and hopeless.

Extensive research in recent years has shown that the developing brain of a teen is uniquely vulnerable to impulsive, and alas, frequently faulty, judgment. This is the neurology of a teen brain, based in scientific fact. How can we impose a system of consequences for behavior for teens which fails to take this into consideration?

Focusing on one small piece of the teen suicide problem - impulsive behavior under extraordinary circumstances - may seem too small a legacy for Josh. But from what you have written of Josh's life, it seems esp pertinent.

I am not a member of any interest group apropos zero tolerance. But as I read Josh's story, I am ashamed, as a member of this society and community, that for possession of a small quantity of marijuana, in a single moment of time, your son chose suicide as a follow-up to a mistake in judgement. As citizens, we are doing something wrong here for Josh and others like him.

John said...

Dear Josh's Mom ... I received a very nice email last night from your daughter Lauren. My name is John Trautwein and yes, it appears that your son Josh and my son Will were a lot alike. My prayers are with you and your family, and I ask God to give you the strength to live one day at a time keeping Josh's light alive. Knowing Will, I would not be surprised if he has already reached out to Josh and their talking about music as I type.
Thank you for your kind words about the Will to Live and what we're trying to do... The day you wrote your blog, was the day of our "Where There's A Will There's A Way 5k" run to promote teen suicide awareness. We hoped for 700 to 1000 runners, we had 1,352. It was a day full of love and giving.. it was organized and implemented by the kids of our community - keeping in line with the foundation's motto: for the kids, through the kids, by the kids. My wife Susie and I were so honored to see so many kids loving each other, giving to each other... I know you state you have money to donate which is great and the suicide prevention and counseling organizations definitely need it... but I would encourage you to perhaps use that money to "fund" an event that the kids (perhaps Josh's friends" could organize and put together... whether it be a fun concert, or a run, or a volleyball tourney whatever.... we have found it's not about the raising money, we have found it's about the kids being together, learning about an epidemic, getting educated on what to do if they see a friend in need.... and most importantly communicating their love for each other and their need for each other, and the fact that they are "Life Teammates" and will be there for each other... Whether you make $1 or $10,000 it does not matter, if the kids walk away and are communicating better, if the parents walk away a little more aware of the pressures these kids feel in their "secret world"... then maybe we'll save a life and hopefully improve many lives... and we honor Josh in that way...

Know that you are loved, and I'm pleased to call you a teammate of mine... with sadness, love and hope,
John Trautwein

Larry & Helen Wood said...

Suzie and John Troutwein are friends of mine and members of the church I pastored in Atlanta for 15years.

I share John's prayers for you.

As a former member of the Arkansas Governors Commission to Prevent Teen Suicide, I concur with Johns encouragement to get teens together talking and loving one another.

Dr. Larry Wood

Mary Gee said...

I would like to thankyou all so sincerely for the positive action you are taking to change the direction of the paths so many of our young people are choosing. I wish my story was a happy one but after my teenage brother suicided four days after my Wedding back in 1990 I was not prepared at all for the shocking ripple effects his death would bring upon my family and those of his friends.
Having worked in a program here in South Australia called 'Living Beyond Suicide' for the past two years, it became painfully clear that we are also neglecting those left behind after a suicide. Sadly, we cannot save everyone but I believe that if we instil a sense of self-worth, build resilience, open communication as the first comment indicates and become more pro-active as a community who has now replaced the family unit, then possibly we will begin to see changes.
I have re-mortgaged my house and left a very comfortable profession as an educator to run my own programs raising awareness for youth mental health and wellbeing and prevention of teen suicide in particular. My journey has only just begun and I pray every day that I have made the right decision. Ten years after my brother's death, I said goodbye to five more family members and friends to suicide. It almost destroyed me but I am obviously stronger than I think and when i see stories like this, it really does inspire me to keep going.
Thankyou sincerely,
Mary Aloisi