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My Advocacy For My Son Stems From My Brother's Suicide By: Dawnette (Trigger Warning)

Suicide Awareness Day in England is tomorrow, April 5th, 2019. For me, it began in 1987 when it stole my older brother from our family. His diagnosis was Manic Depressive and Mild Schizophrenia Disorder. He lived in a broken home, my mother rarely tolerated men and my father was abusive towards him. I think my father also had an undiagnosed mental illness. In the 80’s it was difficult to understand mental illness, lack of treatment, research and compassion made the illness unbearable back then.

For a few years, my brother was in and out of Synanon, which turned out to be a cult. He hated it, but my father abused him and my mother verbally insulted men in general, so he stayed away. She was a victim of malicious attacks on her physical appearance, burning three-fourths of her body down at the age of nine. She wasn’t altogether emotionally stable herself.

My brother was a loving and kind-hearted guy. He was socially awkward around some people and abused alcohol and drugs to cope. He left our home at the age of 15 mostly, in and out of institutions. This began my compassion for people with mental illnesses and it affected me the most in our household.

In 1987 my brother was jailed for stealing a carton of cigarettes and inside the prison, he hung himself with a towel. Such a horrific and violent way to lose his life. I cried and began abusing alcohol to cope with his death. My other coping mechanism was food and my constant crutch in sorrowful times since then.

Years later, when I had kids of my own, mental illness wasn’t a frequent visitor, until I married my second husband and birthed my fourth child Joshua.

I enjoyed being married and truly loved my husband, but the many angry outbursts and loss of temper scenarios ended when my older kids were harmed. Little did I know that my husband lived with bipolar disorder and he lived in the dark until 1999, when my son began to show signs of something wrong and my ex-husband was in his second marriage.

The diagnosis came hand-in-hand with a pediatrician diagnosis of ADHD. My youngest son also exhibited signs of emotional disturbance. My advocacy began early and involvement intense. I placed my son on waitlists for psychiatry, enrolled in studies on Bipolar at Stanford Medical Center.

My son’s impulsive nature took over and led to his placement in a Day Treatment School. In this school, we would receive intensive therapy, psychiatric intervention and would learn how to cope and interact with each other. I wish everyone had this support. I believe he was placed here, due to my advocacy and support of him. If I hadn’t known his rights and responded to the school districts expulsion of my son, he would be another statistic of a broken system.


As a teacher and compassionate mother, I advocated for my son. My support and awareness of mental illness I believe saved my son’s life. He had cut himself several times, he’s taken pills and has been in psychiatric facilities at least four times on short stays and extended weeks. The night he took his Lamictal is another blog post here. My own story of suicide has yet to be told and very few people know of it. My watch covers the scar on my wrist of a night gone wrong.


I attempted to end my life after my mother abandoned me by kicking me out of her house, only to be made worse by my cheating boyfriend. I felt so unloved and held on to those feelings of abandonment by my mother, father who left us and then my boyfriend. My anxiety and depression were deep-rooted and masked well until that night.

Later in life, she apologized, nearly at the end of hers, but not soon enough to stop the impact it had on my life. I believe that one event has resorted to my social isolation, one where I forgot how to talk or became a selectively muted person due to the trauma of feeling unwanted. There were periods in my life where I became tongue-tied and felt incredibly stupid, especially when I attempted to tell people my story of not being able to remember the English language. They laughed at me.


You see, I was the star student in school, excellent in fact, people laughed at me when I told them I forgot how to put entire sentences together. Shame and fear held the place of words, especially given my scores in school, which highlighted my genius intellect. My story remained untold. Well, until now. (More to come on this emotional topic.) I’m glad I lived to tell it and being a survivor, living to raise four beautifully talented kids, be a grandmother to four beloved grandsons has been worth it. I love my family and have committed my life to be there for them all.

I’ve become a teacher, obtained my Bachelor’s Master’s and Teaching Credential while working, raising a family and supporting my son. I had my share of breakdowns through it all, but I’m here. You are not alone. My mask it off and revealed, will you take yours off too?


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