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Finding the Music Again After the Suicide of My Uncle

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September 7, 2015

Liam: Hey man, I know you’ve been feeling down. This song helps me every time I feel alone in the world. I want you to know that you have had a positive influence on my life and introducing me to music production has changed my life for the better. Because of you I have grown an appreciation for the art of music and how it can affect people. There are certain songs like this one that I connect with and I can’t help but think that there is a reason behind it. I am praying for you, Eph.

September 8, 2015

Uncle Eph: Hey buddy, I appreciate you reaching out. I’m sorry I’m kind of the black sheep uncle. I’m going through a rough time right now, but I’ll survive. Thanks for showing you care and taking the time to send me a little encouragement. Love ya, bud.

September 8, 2015

Liam: Love ya too, Uncle.

One month after exchanging these texts messages with my Uncle Ephraim, he took his life. He was just 17 years older than me and I spent much of my childhood in the light of his exuberant personality. He had bipolar disorder for 20 years, but masked it from everyone with his hilarious sense of humor. He was always empathetic, ensuring that his loved ones were happy even when he could not find joy in his own life. He had an incredible, creative gift for composing songs and beats. He was always looking for life’s deeper spiritual meaning. When depression ultimately stole his desire to create music, he gave me his software and taught me the basics. After his death, I inherited all of his turntables and vinyls. Uncle Eph’s love and creativity helped bring meaning to my life and now I must work to find meaning in his death. I inherited his love of music, so I now make my own musical beats with Eph never far from my heart and mind. It comforts me that much of what Eph was passionate about lives on through me.

My uncle’s death brought the grief of suicide so close, but this was not the first time I had lost someone I knew to death from mental illness. Six local high school students have killed themselves in the last several years. I was only 11 when I was suddenly impacted by the suicide of my brother’s football teammate. In both eighth and ninth grade, friends of mine also took their lives because of depression.

Mental health largely remains a taboo subject, with many suicide survivors having had no idea that their loved one was struggling in the first place. Could more psychoeducation within the county school system have prevented just one of the student deaths?

Uncle with his 3 nieces and nephews on Halloween.

My Uncle Ephraim had been open about his depression and had sought help, but there is so much more research that needs to be done in the field of mental health in order to determine how to best treat suicidal depression. I am now involved with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, raising money to help complete its mission of increasing awareness about the known signs for suicidal risk through education, social media and support groups online and in person. I will soon attend and fundraise for one of AFSP’s “Out of the Darkness” walks.

Though I am still working through my own grief and healing, I feel I am in a place where I can educate others about walking “out of the darkness” and into suicide prevention. I plan to become trained to assist peers with mental health issues, with the ultimate goal of volunteering for a crisis helpline. I intend to advocate for suicide prevention and support on my college campus next year. I am forever changed by losing the music of Eph’s life, but I will continue to make music in honor of him and all those affected by depression. My goal is that no one ever gives up the hope of hearing the music of their own lives.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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Originally published: October 28, 2016
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