Mother advocates for mental health after losing her only child to suicide

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Data from the Georgia Department of Public Health shows suicide rates have bee on the rise over the past decade.

A mother who lost her son to suicide is sharing her story to encourage community members to do their part to be an advocate for mental health.

“Be kind to yourself. You loved them, they loved you, they didn’t always love themselves or know how to move through it.”

Deborah Henddendorf said she often thinks about the last conversations she had with her son: “What did I miss? Did he say something that I could have heard differently, or you know you listen but did you really hear?”

After she lost her only child to suicide, Henddendorf said support groups helped her cope with her grief.

“I was just absorbed with losing my child and then you start listening and you learn how it effects, and I can’t stress the word trauma enough. Seek help for your trauma,” the mental health advocate advised.

Henddendorf works with people to teach the how to help loved ones who are dealing with overwhelming physical and emotional stressors.

“They want to talk about it. I’ve had them come up and say, ‘I have a friend that told me about that they were cutting themselves can ya’ll come to our school and talk to us?’ and I was floored because the child was nine-years-old,” Henddendorf stated.

She said people who are struggling often show signs that they need help.

“If their behaviors are changing, maybe they’re becoming very lethargic and isolated and maybe their friends know more. Reinforcing someone with how much you love them sometimes is not the best thing because they don’t feel worthy of your love so they’re already struggling with that part, but listening and asking. I think that’s what’s very hard for all of us is to look at someone you love and ask them ‘are you thinking about killing yourself?’ many times it opens the door for them to know they can talk about it.”

Henddendorf encouraged people to be a ‘mental health’ champion in their communities. She said you can be the difference for someone in need.

If you or someone you know needs immediate help you can call the Georgia Crisis and Access Line at 1-800-715-4225.

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