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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: suicide

My Brother, Still

When my brother was a boy, he loved to leave pennies on the railroad tracks up the street from our house and wait for the freight train to flatten them as it zoomed by.

This scared my mother to death. I don't know that she ever found a flattened penny in the pocket of his jeans or heard it rattling around in the clothes dryer. More likely, she got regular dispatches from the neighborhood gossips reporting for duty.

Every so often, I'd hear her yell his name and order him to stand in front of her — "Right this minute, Mister" — for a lecture about the violent death awaiting him at the tracks.

I was six years older, and watching Chuckie's face as Mom described his inevitable dark fate was the peak of entertainment for a teenage sister who loved her brother. God, that grin of his. Mom idolized her only son, the baby of the family, and he knew it. We all knew it.

I once wrote an essay claiming that, after having three daughters, my parents hired a marching band to welcome home their newborn son. "Connie Marie, that is not true," Mom said after it was published. "You know we didn't have that kind of money back then."

I think about Chuckie's pennies on those rails every time I hear Bruce Springsteen's song One Minute You're Here, which is often. It's on his newest album, Letter to You, and of course, I bought it the day it came out. As I taught Chuckie at a young age, Bruce is proof that our people have poets, too. Knowing that helped me believe I could become a writer. Chuckie, when everyone but family knew him as Chuck, once told me that Bruce helped him make sense of life as much as anyone could.

"I lay my penny down on the rails / As the summer wind sings its last song. / One minute you're here. / Next minute you're gone."

There it is. Damn, Bruce.

This is the eve of my brother's birthday. He would be turning 58 if he hadn't killed himself in the summer of 2019. Like so many people who've lost a loved one to suicide, I've discovered this final fact of his life comes with a grief that has no expiration date.

I was one person before. I am someone else now. That's not a complaint or a plea for sympathy. It's just another fact of life.

I know I'm not alone. Nearly every week since I first wrote about Chuckie's death, I've heard from someone else who has lost a loved one to suicide. Sometimes, it's so soon they can barely find the words. Other times, it's been years, and they still feel the torment of the unanswerable whys.

As I wrote soon after Chuckie's death, he was so much more than how he died. Earlier this week, I was rifling through stacks of old family photos and came across three Polaroids of Chuckie when he was 13, the age now of my oldest grandson.

He is sitting in Dad's recliner, which means our father wasn't home. In two of the shots, Chuckie is holding both of our dogs, Shilo and Sheba. His smile is biggest, though, when only Sheba is in his arms. He had rescued her from the streets and defied Dad for months by hiding her in the garage and in his room until Mom finally brokered the truce that let her stay.

Sheba was his first love, the first of many rescues. That was his heart, always. That is his heart, still.

In this last year, I've thought so often of Chuckie as this pandemic has ravaged our country. Before decades of alcoholism caught up with him, Chuckie was at the top of his game in pharmaceutical sales. He loved educating doctors and the public about medical breakthroughs.

In his last year, he had lost everything that mattered to him. But I keep thinking that, if only I had convinced him to hang on (I know, I know), he would have found his way back somehow, when so many medical professionals have come out of retirement to save us.

Chuckie could have helped us. My brother could have made a difference. I believe this. I guess that means I believe in him.

That is my heart, still.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University's school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including "...and His Lovely Wife," which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. She is also the author of The New York Times bestselling novel, The Daughters of Erietown. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com

When In Doubt, Please Show Up

How many times has this happened in the last two months? I’m not sure, but every time it still catches me off guard.

In this particular moment, I was on a conference call when we took a break from the work and started talking about our summers. At some point, I just couldn’t keep pretending this summer was like any other. “My brother killed himself,” I said, “on the first day of July. So, summer changed after that.”

I owe Chuckie that, it seems — not to pretend he didn’t die, and not to lie about how it happened.

The discomfort was immediate. They were so sorry, they said. I know them to be good people, and I believe them. They knew about Chuckie, one of them added, but they weren’t sure if it was right to bring it up. I believe this, too. Before it was my family’s turn, when we were lucky, I didn’t always know what to do.

Now, I do. No luck involved.

There are people who are uncomfortable with death, period. They don’t know what to say, or what to do. Having held the hands of both of my parents as they took their last breath, I learned that one needn’t have the right words to do the right thing. For years after their deaths, I was apologizing to people who’d had a right to expect better of me in their times of grief.

Suicide is different. Even those accustomed to sending sympathy cards and attending wakes and funerals, stumble. What words could possibly help?

Well, here’s my short list of what doesn’t:

Don’t tell us survivors that if only our loved ones had prayed harder to Jesus, they would still be alive. My brother did pray, as did all of us who loved him, and still he died. We blame alcohol and depression, not him, and not Jesus.

Don’t immediately tell us that our loved ones are in a better place, unless you can show us the brochure. We are in shock. We can barely breathe. We don’t need you pretending to know more than we do.

Don’t ask us how our loved ones killed themselves. If you don’t understand why, please just stay away. This job is not for you.

I am not writing this column to make anyone feel bad or to chastise those who didn’t reach out. I am writing to affirm those who did, and to keep my silent promise to the thousands of survivors who, since my brother’s death, have shared their stories about life after a loved one has committed suicide.

So much grief hidden from public view, so much pain compounded by secrecy, shame and unwarranted guilt.

“For forty years, we’ve never talked about it,” one man wrote about his father’s suicide. “And for forty years, this hole in my heart hasn’t healed.”

Here’s what helps, they tell me.

Mention our loved ones, please, if you knew them. In texts and emails, or in person, say their names. Not a day goes by that we aren’t thinking about them. It helps to know you are, too.

If you have a story about them, please share it. How our loved ones died is the hardest thing about their deaths, but the least meaningful thing about them. Every new detail we hear about them breathes life into the people we want to remember.

If you don’t know what to say, say that. Much of the time, we don’t know what to say either. Even if we’ve feared, for years, that this day would come, most of us never really believed it would happen, which we only discover after it does.

As I write this, a tower of handwritten notes leans next to my computer, on the right. I will never get rid of these letters. A handwritten note is that extra mile we were raised to believe in. Seeing a person’s handwriting, and running our fingers across its loops and indentations, makes us feel less alone.

Again, no matter how you reach out, remember: If you don’t know what to say, just say that. We’ll know what you mean.

I am reminded of a text message from one of my former students, sent from hundreds of miles away.

“I don’t know what to say,” he wrote, “but you always told us it’s important to show up. So, this is me, showing up. I’m sorry you lost your brother.”

For just a moment, I fell apart, for all the right reasons.

 

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, “Erietown,” will be published by Random House in Spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

The Suicide Epidemic: Social, Economic Or Both?

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Ours is a nation in despair. U.S. suicide rates have surged to a 30-year high, and it’s not just among struggling middle-aged whites. Suicides by girls age 10 to 14 have spiked over the last 18 years. And there’s been a shocking surge in children 17 or under dying from self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

Since 1999, suicide rates have risen in every age group except the elderly, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Among women 45 to 64 it jumped an astounding 63 percent. For men that age, it was up 43 percent.

In their report on rising death rates among middle-aged white Americans, Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton referred to “deaths of despair” — early deaths caused by drugs and alcohol, as well as by suicide. They cited deteriorating job prospects and a decline in stable relationships as possible factors.

Economic stress certainly plays a part. America’s suicide rate of 13 per 100,000 in 2014 was the highest since 1986. But that was much lower than during the Great Depression, when the suicide rate hit 22 per 100,000.

However, the Depression was an economic calamity unimaginable to many living today. The economic collapse produced an unemployment rate of 25 percent. The jobless rate in 2014 never reached 7 percent.

And unlike their Depression-era ancestors, Americans in 2014 had some social safety nets. They had health coverage thanks to Obamacare, disability for those who could get it, unemployment checks following layoffs and, for older people, the option of taking Social Security.

What the Depression generation had in greater abundance, though, was stronger social connections, a key to mental health. Marriages were tighter and connections to community stronger. As an elderly relative who remembers those years told me, “Things were tough, but we had each other.”

Many relationships nowadays are online presences that poorly replace physical company. Researchers are tying a pandemic of loneliness to heavy use of Facebook, Snapchat and other social media.

“It’s social media, so aren’t people going to be socially connected?” asked Brian Primack, who co-authored a study on social media’s impact at the University of Pittsburgh.

The answer seems no. People who spent more than two hours a day on social media were twice as likely to feel socially isolated as those who spent less time on the sites, his study found. (Of course, lonely people may gravitate to social media in the first place.)

Recall that grotesque story of a teenage girl who egged a depressed boy to commit suicide via text messages and cellphone. Michelle Carter, then 17, had repeatedly texted 18-year-old Conrad Roy III to kill himself.

Roy finally drove a truck to a Kmart parking lot in Taunton, Massachusetts, and sat in the cab as deadly fumes poured in. At one point, Roy seemed to have changed his mind and stepped out. But Carter, speaking to him on the phone, told him to get back in. He did and died.

Carter’s apparent lack of conscience so alarmed the judge that he found her guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Many legal minds condemned the verdict for redefining criminal responsibility. Carter’s only “weapon” was words.

“Will the next case be a Facebook posting in which someone is encouraged to commit a crime?” asked Harvard Law professor Nancy Gertner.

We ask a different question. Would Carter have continued her cruel manipulation had she been face-to-face with Roy? Doing this through text messages may have made it seem less real to her.

Americans can find solace in physical interaction. We can meet a friend for coffee and an honest conversation with none of that social media showboating. There is great comfort in knowing we have each other.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

Vince Foster’s Sister In Wash. Post: “Trump Should Be Ashamed” For Pushing Murder Conspiracy Theory

Published with permission from Media Matters for America

The sister of late White House deputy counsel Vince Foster wrote a Washington Post op-ed strongly condemning presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for reviving the conspiracy theory that the Clintons killed her brother.

Trump recently told the Post that the circumstances of Foster’s death were “very fishy” and Foster “knew everything that was going on, and then all of a sudden he committed suicide.”

Sheila Foster Anthony responded to Trump’s “wrong,” “irresponsible,” and “cruel” remarks in a May 26 piece headlined, “Vince Foster was my brother. Donald Trump should be ashamed.” She wrote: “For Trump to raise these theories again for political advantage is wrong. I cannot let such craven behavior pass without a response.”

She noted that five investigations concluded that Foster’s death was a suicide and he “told me he was battling depression” days before he committed suicide.

“Never for a minute have I doubted that was what happened,” she added.

Anthony noted that after Foster’s death, she began to read “countless conspiracy theories spun by those who claimed that the Clintons had Vince murdered because he knew something about Whitewater” and “These outrageous suggestions have caused our family untold pain because this issue went on for so long and these reports were so painful to read.”

Asked about Anthony’s op-ed, Trump today said, “I really know nothing about the Vince Foster situation.” He also claimed it shouldn’t be a part of the campaign “unless some evidence to the contrary of what I’ve seen comes up.”

Leading conservative media figures and outlets such as The Wall Street JournalSean HannityRush Limbaugh, and Fox News have pushed conspiracy theories about Foster and the Clintons in the years after his death.

While many reporters condemned Trump’s remarks as “bizarre” and “kooky,” his reference to the Foster conspiracy theory drew praise from fringe conservative media.

Conspiracy theorist radio host Alex Jones on May 24 claimed “there’s a cover-up going on, so we don’t know what it is, but that’s good for an open investigation with the death. …. The Clintons thought they would just have their past not looked at, but Donald Trump is willing to do it.” Jones is one of Trump’s most vocal allies and has hosted the candidate on his program.

WND, best known for obsessing over President Obama’s birth certificate, recently claimed that Trump’s conspiracy is “backed by new evidence.” The site’s 2015 “man of the year” was none other than Donald Trump, who called the accolade an “amazing honor.”

Texas Grand Jury Resumes Investigation Into Arrest, Death Of Sandra Bland

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

HOUSTON — The Texas grand jury looking into the death of Sandra Bland resumed its examination Wednesday, renewing the possibility that the state trooper who arrested the 28-year-old woman could be charged.

The grand jury has already concluded that no felony was committed by the sheriff’s office or jailers in connection with Bland’s death.

Bland was found hanged by a plastic bag in her jail cell three days after she was arrested outside Houston on July 10 during a routine traffic stop.

Special prosecutor Shawn McDonald said the Waller County grand jury met for the fourth time Wednesday morning after reaching no decision last month on whether Brian T. Encinia, the trooper who arrested Bland, should face charges.

McDonald said he couldn’t say whether the grand jury was considering charges against Encinia, but said the panel will likely finish its work by day’s end.

He is one of five Houston-area lawyers appointed as independent special prosecutors to present the case to the grand jury. If there are any indictments, those lawyers will take the case to trial.

Bland’s family and activists have questioned how the traffic stop was conducted and whether Bland, an outspoken online advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement, killed herself. At the time Bland was stopped, she had just accepted a job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University.

Encinia pulled over Bland for making an improper lane change near the university’s entrance, about 50 miles northwest of Houston. The confrontation that ensued before Bland was arrested and charged with assault was captured on video by a dashboard camera.

Bland was taken to the Waller County jail in nearby Hempstead where, three days later, unable to make $500 bail, she was discovered hanged in her cell. After an autopsy by the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences in Houston, officials ruled her death a suicide.

Cannon Lambert, an attorney for the Bland family, said they have little hope the grand jury will indict Encinia.

“We would frankly be surprised,” Lambert told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.

But Lambert said there’s still a chance the grand jury could charge the trooper.

“We called it a sham before — I’d love to be wrong,” he said, “We always have believed that he acted criminally.”

Lambert said he was hopeful that if the grand jury finishes Wednesday, investigators would finally release records, including a Texas Ranger’s report, that have so far been withheld due to the ongoing investigation.

Bland’s relatives have demanded the records as part of a wrongful death lawsuit they filed in August against the Waller County Sheriff’s Office, jail officials and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Last month, attorneys representing Waller County filed a motion seeking to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that Bland took her life because she was distraught that her family members didn’t bail her out of jail.

Following last month’s grand jury meetings, protesters gathered outside the Waller County courthouse and marched in a Houston park to condemn the process and call for the Justice Department to launch an independent investigation.

State lawmakers monitoring the case have asked for calm as the grand jury meets.

©2016 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Demonstrators hold signs of Sandra Bland and Kindra Chapman, both of whom died in custody, during a rally against police violence in New York July 22, 2015. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

 

California Senate Passes Assisted-Suicide Bill

Los Angeles Times (TNS)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — After a debate marked by raw and personal tales of loss, the California state Senate on Thursday advanced a proposal to allow terminally ill people to end their lives with drugs prescribed by physicians.

If the measure wins approval by the Assembly and Gov. Jerry Brown, California will join five other states in legalizing assisted suicide for dying patients. The legislation would apply to requests by mentally competent adults with six months or less to live.

The Senate proposal, titled the End of Life Option Act, is modeled after a voter-approved law that took effect in Oregon in 1997.

Although debated here for decades, the issue gained momentum after Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old Californian who was terminally ill, decided to move to Oregon last year to end her life rather than suffer pain and debilitation from an aggressive brain cancer.

Maynard recorded a video appeal to California lawmakers to give residents an aid-in-dying option that was not available to her. Brown called Maynard in the weeks before her death to discuss the legislation, according to his office.

Maynard’s husband and mother were in the Senate chamber Thursday during the two-hour debate.

The Senate measure “is about how we die in California,” said Sen. Lois Wolk, a Democrat, as she opened the discussion. Passage of the bill, written by Wolk and fellow Democrat Bill Monning, would permit the terminally ill “to voluntarily end their lives in peace,” she said.

Wolk talked of the prolonged, “brutal” death of her own mother from cancer and said the proposed law would give Californians an alternative to such suffering.

“Simply having a prescription is in itself a source of relief, knowing that if things got really bad that one would have an option to end one’s life with less suffering and in peace,” Wolk said.

Republican Sen. John Moorlach of Irvine questioned the morality of the proposal.

“For me, it’s unconscionable, and I can’t be a party to it.”

Other senators cited religions that consider suicide a sin and said elderly people might be coerced into taking their own lives if they felt they were a burden on their families.

“Greedy heirs can have an influence,” said Republican Sen. Jeff Stone.

The measure passed on a largely party line vote of 23 to 14. Its prospects in the Assembly are unclear, and Brown has not taken a public position on the proposal.

A patient would have to make two oral requests to a physician for help in dying, at least 15 days apart, with witnesses to the requests. The medication would have to be self-administered. In addition, the bill would create felony penalties for coercing a patient into making a request or for forging a request.

California voters voted down a 1992 proposal that would have allowed physicians to administer lethal injections to their patients.

Since Oregon adopted its law in 1997, medical aid in dying has been authorized in Washington state, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico.

Photo: Physician-assisted suicide isn’t this easy, and it shouldn’t be. Via Wikipedia

Investigators: Germanwings Co-Pilot Tested Descent On Earlier Flight

By Jessica Camille Aguirre, dpa (TNS)

PARIS — The co-pilot suspected of deliberately downing a Germanwings jet in March tested the controls of the plane during an earlier flight the same morning, French investigators said Wednesday.

On March 24, co-pilot Andreas Lubitz is believed to have crashed flight 4U 9525 into the French Alps killing himself and 149 others on board. The plane was en route to Dusseldorf from Barcelona.

French aviation safety authority BEA said that on an earlier flight, Lubitz conducted seconds-long descent maneuvers.

The report said he brought the plane’s altitude down to 100 feet multiple times over a four-minute period before returning to normal altitude.

During those maneuvers, the captain was absent from the cockpit.

Much of the information in the BEA report, which reveals further details about the flight and Lubitz’s medical history, is based on the black box, consisting of the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder found at the crash site.

Earlier, prosecutors in Germany said that Lubitz searched for suicide methods and cockpit-locking mechanisms on the Internet in the week before he locked himself alone in the cockpit and accelerated the aircraft into the mountainside.

A flight training school for Lufthansa, Germanwings’ parent company, also said earlier that it was aware Lubitz struggled with depression.

Wednesday’s BEA report showed that Lubitz was twice refused a medical certificate re-validation in April 2009 by Lufthansa aeromedical center because of depression and the medication he was taking for it.

When he was issued a new certificate in July 2009, it had a note specifying that it was with the limitation stating regular medical examinations. The limitation also requires the medical examiner to contact the license issuer before conducting an evaluation for a medical certificate renewal.

Lubitz’s most recent medical certificate was issued in July 2014 and was valid until August 2015.

“We are in a situation where the medical problem was known, was investigated, and a decision was made,” French civil aviation authority director Remi Jouty said while explaining the findings.

Lubitz had struggled with depression and had a doctor’s note for the day he allegedly downed the plane, but he had hidden the note and been cleared for flying by Germanwings parent company Lufthansa.

The case has raised questions in Germany about privacy practices after Germanwings and Lufthansa said they were not aware of Lubitz’s doctor’s note.

The BEA report said it was considering “how and why pilots can be in the cockpit with the intention of causing the loss of the aircraft and its occupants, despite the existence of regulations setting mandatory medical criteria for flight crews, especially in the areas of psychiatry, psychology, and behavioral problems.”

It also said it was considering the effect of regulations imposed after the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, on cockpit safety procedures.

BEA investigators reiterated prosecutors’ findings that the flight’s captain tried to re-enter the cockpit several times as the plane descended.

Lubitz also did not respond to multiple calls from air traffic controllers and the French Air Defence system, the BEA report said. Starting approximately two minutes before impact, investigators said, “noises similar to violent blows on the cockpit door were recorded on five occasions.”

Photo: Fanden selv via Flickr

A Mother Joins Others Breaking The Silence On Teen Suicide

By Gracie Bonds Staples, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (TNS)

ATLANTA — Kelly Wittes begins slowly, wondering out loud if she’s about to do the right thing.

If she tells Joshua’s story will it help or just make things worse? What if talking about Joshua’s struggle encourages other kids to take their lives, too?

“I always have that fear,” she says.

More than 50 research studies worldwide have found that certain types of news coverage can increase the likelihood of suicide. But Kelly Wittes is convinced silence can, too.

Not many are talking now. While it robs us of our children, suicide is still considered a private matter, something to be shared only among family. Maybe we ought to rethink that.

Between 2007 and 2013, the rate among adolescents ages 10 to 19 increased 34 percent, from 3.77 to 5.05 per 100,000 population. In 2013, suicide surpassed homicide to become the second leading cause of death among children and teens.

Just weeks after his 16th birthday, Joshua hanged himself in his hospital room.

That was four years ago but for Wittes, talking about it hasn’t gotten any easier.

There’s a stigma associated with suicide; no matter how many people are lured into its grip we’d rather pretend it doesn’t happen. Too many still wrongly believe suicide is an indication that you’re weak, bad, or both. And if you’re the parent like Wittes, people believe you failed miserably.

It’s true we’ve become a more open society. The revolution that has occurred in the gay community alone is worth noting. People who wouldn’t dare come out of the closet five years ago are now getting married. We’re far less homophobic than we used to be.

Why? Because familiarity begets acceptance. It can be the same way with suicide if we put our judgment aside and listen.

I did that one morning last week when Kelly Wittes opened her life to me, and I get it. Even engaged parents can sometimes feel lost and helpless. They struggle with who to trust, and are constantly searching for that one thing that will help their kid get better. Sometimes, no matter what they do or how hard they try it isn’t enough.

And when that happens, for the sake of other children, they try some more, as Wittes has done. Win or lose, they continue to bring suicide out in the open so there’s no longer a stigma attached to it. Ninety percent of people who take their lives have a mental disorder like depression. The good news is depression can be treated. The bad news is most of us don’t know the warning signs.

Joshua was one of the brightest, sweetest kids you could ever meet. He was a star athlete who excelled at tennis and lacrosse. And when he smiled, revealing the dimples in his cheeks, you melted like an ice cube in summer.

“Everybody loved him,” his mother said.

But he felt alone and confused.

Wittes can’t explain why. It’s just one more question for which she’ll never have an answer.

Here’s what she does know. She and her husband, Rob, were the happiest they’d ever been when Joshua and his twin brother came into their lives 20 years ago. They did their best to be good parents, to be present in their sons’ lives.

Not in an overbearing way but just enough to recognize mood swings, to see to their needs. That’s why it didn’t take long for her to see Joshua was in trouble.

“Something was off,” Wittes said.

He would have outbursts of anger, and when she confronted him he was very apologetic. He just needed something to calm down. Eventually he didn’t care, so he didn’t apologize for anything. The angry outbursts. His violent, disrespectful behaviour.

“That’s when I really got scared,” his mother said.

She and Rob eventually forced him to see a psychologist, and he was admitted into a psychiatric hospital.

When they thought things were getting better, they were getting worse. No doctor helped. No hospital. No amount of love and understanding.

She and Rob were out for dinner the night they got the call.

Joshua had tried to take his life and was en route from the psychiatric hospital, where he was on suicide watch a second time in six months, to a local children’s hospital.

It was March 10, 2011. Joshua was 16. A sophomore in high school, and just like that, he was gone

So now, over a toasted bagel and a cup of coffee, his mother shares his short life, hoping it’ll force the subject out into the open once and for all and somehow make a difference in the lives of others.

It’s been nearly four years since that night and people still ask for one of the bracelets a friend made to help defray the family’s hospital costs, Wittes says, pulling the blue plastic from her wrist. Kids still visit his Facebook page, she says with tears rolling down her cheek. Look at all the stones people have placed on his grave, she says whipping out her cell phone.

“It’s heartbreaking to think that he thought that no one loved him, that they thought he was weird,” Wittes said.

Her honesty floors you. In talking about Joshua’s pain, Wittes has done what no amount of statistics can ever do.

(c)2015 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Image: Anel Rosas, Flickr