Straight Talk for Teens: Grieving father’s love, courage inspire many

By: Lauren Forcella
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Dear Straight Talk: Twenty-one months ago, my 18-year-old son jumped to his death from the 720-foot-high Forest-hill Bridge. He left for school that morning. At lunch, I got a call that he was at the bridge thinking about jumping. I raced there, not believing it, but there he was. I drove up next to him. He looked at the car, climbed the railing and jumped off. I know he loved me dearly. How could he do it? My son began smoking pot around age 14. I didn’t take pot very seriously – nothing horrible had happened to me. Plus, he was getting A’s, so he had it under control, right? Well, he started failing classes and be-came increasingly anxious and depressed. We thought it was teenage rough times. Toward the end, ecstasy and other drugs entered the mix. He even stopped drawing, a loved activity. We tried counseling, group therapy and anti-depressants, but too late. I am sharing this story as a wake-up call. Even if you don’t think some drugs are serious, please remember my son, Forest. Dad from Auburn. Rachel, 20, Los Angeles: For years I considered Forest a little brother. I watched him struggle in the transition to high school and with his family’s divorce. He started smoking for “fun,” but it became the constant he clung to as life got rocky. This was the time he needed help. He was an amazing artist. He needed to be pushed to be more than a “stoner.” I think he felt abandoned by life. I and many others lost contact and when I saw him he was so consumed by smoking I couldn’t connect. I hate that I never spoke up. I remember the look in his eyes: He looked lost. Why didn’t I ask the real questions and reach out to him? Sawyer, 20, Sacramento: Your son was the funniest, most imaginative person I knew. In eighth grade he had written a whole series of comic books that were really good. I saw him only rarely after that and didn’t see the warning signs. Katie, 18, Auburn: As kids, we were decent friends. If we needed something, we knew the other was there. Then you started smoking weed. It wasn’t considered a big deal. I tried it, too, but it made me anxious and groggy the next day. You were drawn to it, pulled in, little by little. We drifted apart, rarely spoke. When we did, you were always looking for pot to feed the addiction. Yes, addiction. Before pot, you were happy. Not a care in the world. ... Then I lost the “real you.” You became a stranger. Years passed with no contact, then you re-emerged in the worst way possible, buying acid and ecstasy from someone I knew. I saw you at a party and you were on acid. Your art ... it terrified me. Not a week later, you were gone. Never again will I not speak up. Dear Dad: Please accept my deepest sympathy for the loss of your beloved son. I bow to the love and courage it took to write this letter. You are a great man, father and teacher to us all. ~ Lauren For more discussion, to ask a question, or inquire about being a youth panelist, visit or write P.O. Box 963, Fair Oaks, CA 95628. ----------- More from LAUREN FORCELLA: Suicide is nobody’s fault. Some can see the signs of trouble, others cannot. Some can see a “lost” or “foreign” look in the eye, others cannot. Many think marijuana use is “normal” for teenagers and not that serious, including some law enforcement officials and drug counselors. But many kids don’t do well on it and it significantly impacts their brain chemistry. Virtually all suicides are associated with drug or alcohol use. I encourage parents not only to learn the signs of suicide (which we will cover next week), but also to learn the signs of drug and alcohol use and not turn a blind eye to them.