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It’s ok to talk about suicide, family survivor says

Auburn mother reminds others that help is out there
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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A recent suicide attempt from the Foresthill Bridge was reason enough for one local mother to speak out and remind people help is out there. Five years ago, Auburn resident Gail Beeman lost her son, Christopher, just four months shy of his 21st birthday, when he took his life by jumping off the 730-foot high bridge. On Tuesday an unidentified woman stood on the bridge’s edge for three hours, stopping traffic in both directions, before deciding to climb back over the rail. Gail Beeman and her family have worked hard since their son’s death to raise awareness about the signs of suicide and how others can help. On Saturday she participated in the 2009 Out of the Darkness community walk to prevent suicide in Sacramento. “The whole goal is to bring awareness for suicide,” Gail Beeman said. “More importantly it’s to educate people that by talking openly about depression and the signs of depression we can actually stop suicide.” According to information from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, there are usually many underlying reasons why someone decides to kill themselves and usually not one single event. Those reasons can include depression, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders and personality disorder. Gail Beeman said she believes her son was struggling to cope with how one mistake was impacting his life. About a year before he died, Christopher Beeman was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. While his blood alcohol level was about .001, because he was under 21, he was arrested and stripped of his driver’s license for a year under the state’s zero-tolerance policy. Christopher Beeman tried to get a provisional license so he could drive to classes at Sierra College, where he was maintaining a 3.8 grade point average, and working 30 hours a week at a part-time job. But he was unable to do that. “To him, he couldn’t understand how one mistake was overwhelmingly ruining his life, is the way he looked at it,” Gail Beeman said. “He had set goals in his life and was a good kid and good leader.” The night Christopher Beeman jumped off the Foresthill Bridge, he had been drinking alcohol and was depressed, Gail Beeman said. She said her son was talking to his girlfriend on the phone for about 40 minutes until the phone battery died. Gail Beeman said phone records would later show that her son had tried to call his parents twice that night but the connection was never made. After Christopher Beeman’s death, his family successfully petitioned the county to have call boxes installed at either end of the bridge. About once a month, Gail Beeman drives down to the bridge to fill the call boxes with suicide hotline phone number cards. Now, Gail Beeman said she hopes that more schools will start talking about depression with students. “I really feel we have to be proactive about letting kids know what the signs of depression are,” Gail Beeman said. “Kids can help other kids.” She said through her experience she’s learned varying signs of depression and found out that oftentimes young men do not talk about their feelings. Instead, anger is one sign. Beeman added that in her profession, she comes across clients who feel hopeless because of the toll the tough economy has taken on their lives. “I’m a tax accountant and have a lot of clients struggling right now,” Beeman said. “They’ve said openly to me I can understand how someone gets to that point where they feel this is an answer to a devastating situation.” Gail Beeman said she encourages people to talk about their feelings and says others should not be afraid to ask a depressed person if they are suicidal. “We think if we talk about suicide we give people ideas and it’s just the opposite,” Gail Beeman said. “A lot of times people want to be asked. If they’re asked and say yes, then say, ‘Let’s get you a counselor and someone who understands the situation.’” Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com. ---------- Suicide help There is help for those who are depressed or who are thinking of taking their own life. Those looking for help can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255). Also, more information is available from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at afsp.org. ----------