Welcome and thank you so much for visiting. In the interest of sharing how this all started, this is the beginning of a series of posts where we will be taking you through the eyes of Brendan’s family and friends, hoping to share the various perspectives of those most affected by Brendan’s death. We begin with Brendan’s mother, Dashawn Dingle, and her journey over the first 90 days…
No matter the audience, my story starts out the same. On February 16, 2017, my 19-year-old son, Brendan, took a knife and committed suicide. After that, his high school suffered through 3 more suicide attempts. Two of those children were “successful” in their attempts. If you couldn’t think of another way to make to make this situation even more tragic, I can. A minimum of four of my son’s friends knew about his intentions prior to the taking of his own life- one of them physically got up and left him in the room. And you guessed it, NO ONE reported the incident.
My head continuously swims with questions. What could I have done? Why didn’t I notice something? Am I responsible for this? Did I parent him in the wrong way? Should I have been more strict? Should I have been more relaxed? Should I have ever sent him to school? I will never know the answers to those questions. The answers for the questions do not exist.
There are questions that have answers. Why didn’t his friends say anything? Why didn’t someone call his parents? Why didn’t his friends call 911? My family still facing those questions everyday. Some with confusion, others face those questions with anger and calls for “justice”. For me, The answers to those questions have given me a new life’s mission. Those answers give my son’s meaningless death a new meaning. How? How can anyone create meaning from those questions? I will explain.
Since that horrible day in February, I have looked at the actions (or more appropriately inactions) of my son’s friends and thought back through my own life. I look back at all the times when someone had shared those same suicidal thoughts with me. How many times have I gone to that dark place and had the same thoughts? I confided with friends. Did they ever tell my parents? Did they ever pick-up the phone to call 911? No. In one situation, a friend’s parents were going through a terrible divorce. Their sister had phoned them with a frantic call for help. Driving home out of state to help, they questioned the validity. Could it really be that bad? It was. As they described the chaos they were going through, their father uttered some drunken threats. He threatened to kill her mother and himself. Did she call the police? Nope. She simply told them if they were going to behave this way that her son will not be there to see it. She grabbed his little suitcase, threw some clothes in it, and scampered back to her home state, leaving them to their own vices. She came to me, wondering how could she have done such a thing? What if her father had followed through with that threat? Would she have been a bad person? Should she or I have been thrown in jail for not doing anything? Does it mean that she didn’t love her parents? Of course not. She nor I knew what to do with that situation. We were never taught what to do in that situation. Where would we have learned what to do in that situation?
As my family and I look back on experiences and my son’s tragedy, we know what we have to do. We have to teach children and young adults about depression and suicidal ideation. We have to fight for the validity of mental illness and delegitimize the stigma attached to mental illness. Most importantly, we need to let people know what actions are needed in a time of suicidal crisis. What they SHOULD do when they hear about a suicidal threat.
Where does one begin to try to accomplish those goals? What types of resources are required? How could we try to tackle this Herculean task without any political and educational background? Those questions bring us to where we are today. We created a foundation in my son’s honor. Brendan’s Smile Foundation has given our family an opportunity to connect with Brendan every day. Through our grassroot efforts, we have compiled a phenomenal cast of individuals that push our mission forward, little by little, every day in different ways.
The American Federation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) has been a voice for suicide prevention and awareness since the 80’s. Brendan’s Smile Foundation was honored to partner with AFSP for Advocacy Day in Springfield, Ill. Our stories were shared with our state representatives to encourage the passing of legislation that requires suicide prevention and education for teachers and students in Illinois. Our collective voices, passion, and determination resonated with our legislatures. Though it is a small step in the overall goal of Brendan’s organizations, I am hopeful for our future.