DIAMONDHEAD, MS (WLOX) - Having a child who commits suicide is a parents most heartbreaking nightmare, and it’s happening at an alarming rate.
One Diamondhead woman is working through her own pain by helping others. September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
Theresa Danko is on a mission after losing her teenage son to suicide seven years ago. Not just this month, but every day of every year, she reaches out to others has helped give her the strength and courage to carry on.
Not a day goes by that Danko doesn’t think about and miss her son, Sebastian, who took his own life at the age of 19. She said, "The first year and a half after Sebastian’s death is a fog and a blur and you find what you need to do to get by day by day.”
For her, losing a son who brought so much joy during his short life was an incomprehensible tragedy. Danko remembered, “Sebastian was a fun loving child. a jokester, funny, intelligent, very bright and always made everyone laugh. That’s what he did.”
During those early weeks after his death there were some extremely dark days.
“There was a time in the beginning where I wanted to be with my dead son more than I wanted to be with my living daughter. Thankfully I knew how unhealthy that was, found my saving grace, and knew I needed to survive for myself and my daughter.”
A big part of that healing process in recent years has been to turn her focus toward helping others who may be dealing with suicidal thoughts; and to help bring awareness to mental illness and suicide.
“I got involved with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Looking for answers to questions in hopes of finding some answers for myself is when I found AFSP and I helped with the formation of the Mississippi chapter.”
Theresa helps organize the annual Gulf Coast Suicide Prevention Out of the Darkness Walk that had close to 700 participants this year.
She says helping others is a way to help herself. “It’s never a 100 percent complete healing of a broken heart and broken soul, but you learn to mend it back together by reaching out to other people and sharing my experiences and through the process it helps me as well.”
Theresa says the number of reported suicides last year alone in Mississippi among young people, 10 to 34 years old, was 383.
She says more needs to be done not only for awareness, but to bring real change in mental health care. “It’s a shame somebody struggling so hard to stay afloat, to stay alive, cannot feel comfortable enough to say hey, I need help, this is how I’m feeling. And that’s why we need to talk about suicide, about prevention,to get it out there.”
Theresa says she’ll keep working to bring awareness while always keeping Sebastian close to her heart.
“His life will always be important and we will never forget him. He is who I am today and has taught me so much, even after his life. He’s a big part of who I am and he’s educating me so I can educate others.”
The suicide prevention walk this past weekend surpassed the $25 thousand goal, raising almost $34 thousand this year. If you’d like to make a donation to help AFSP in Mississippi, go to afsp.org/mississippi.