Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Ground Zero: When the only answer is suicide

It's been over five years since Michelle departed our lives, and since then, I have been drawn to any headline, every story and whatever I could get my hands on regarding mental health, depression and suicide. Over the years, I kept returning to one burning question: what saved me that Michelle could have benefitted from? If I deserved a second chance, why not her? -- Nicholas Gagnier, Ground Zero

Michelle, the girl that my son was writing about in his new poetry anthology, was a constant presence in our house during high school. She was shy, waiflike, with a healthy head of blonde hair. She was always polite, rarely a bother, but was clearly troubled. Scott drove her home once after finding her crying in our bathroom. All she could say was "sorry".

Like all the other kids, Michelle proudly graduated high school and then set off to pursue her dreams. But things didn't work out for Michelle who battled demons on multiple levels. About a year later, we heard the news that Michelle had taken her own life.

The news sent shockwaves through the tight group that used to call our house "the Bus Stop". And it shook me to the core. Could we have done anything? Should we have alerted someone that she was having troubles? Why didn't the Bus Stop Gang intervene?

There are no answers when someone takes their own life. Only questions.

Michelle's death so troubled Nick that he had her name and the date of her death tattooed on his forearm. But instead of taking to his bed, he took to his computer and banged out pages and pages of poems, purging his emotions, his questions and his anger.

A couple of years ago, he began to share his poetry on Wordpress. He amassed a following and the Wordpress collective began to trade poetry. Ground Zero is the result of that collaboration and includes poetry from Michelle herself.

The journey now completed, the book is being sold on as both a Kindle selection and paperback. Part of the proceeds will go to the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa, whose staff helped Nick through his troubled youth.

If you know a young person who is struggling with a mental illness, perhaps you might purchase a copy. Maybe it will help. It certainly can't hurt.

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