Woman who lost her mother to suicide urges those suffering to seek help

Woman who lost her mother to suicide urges those suffering to seek help
Joannie Garner (left) was 12 when her mother committed suicide and now she is doing all that she can to make sure the same situation does not happen to anyone else. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - News of two celebrities who took their own lives is shining a spotlight on the struggles associated with mental illness. Friday, the body of TV Host and chef Anthony Bourdain was found in France, where he was shooting a new episode of his show. Earlier this week Designer Kate Spade was found in her New York apartment. Her husband said she had been fighting severe depression.

The stories are resonating here in Alabama. Joannie Garner, founder of Beautiful Warriors, was just 12 years old when her mother took her own life on July 9, 1986.

"I remember that day. It haunts me," said Garner.

Thirty-two years later, she still reflects back on the hopelessness she experienced after her mother's suicide.

"I think that was the hardest part, was feeling like I could have done something to stop it. Feeling powerless. Feeling abandoned that she left me behind," said Garner.

Now a wife and mother, Garner says it is her faith that helped her heal.

"I made a conscious decision even at 12 that I would not let this steal from my future, because it had taken so much already. I feel like the love of Jesus is what got me through that," said Garner.

While the topic may be fresh due to fashion mogul Kate Spade's and TV host and chef Anthony Bourdain's recent suicides, both nationally and right here in our state, the numbers have increased.

"In 1999 there was 560 suicide in the state and in 2016 there was 788. It touches all races, ethnicities, all economic levels, and all backgrounds," said Alabama Department of Public Health Prevention Branch Director Betsy Cagle.

Some warning signs may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these, seek help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255.

Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves, looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun, talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live, talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain, talking about being a burden to others, increasing the use of alcohol or drugs, acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly, are just some of the signs.

Sleeping too little or too much, withdrawing or isolating themselves, showing rage or talking about seeking revenge, extreme mood swings are some other signs.

If you do believe someone is dealing with suicidal thoughts it is important not to stay silent.

"The most important thing to do is talk about it and ask them directly, 'Are you considering suicide?' Don't beat around the bush," said Cagle.

Garner, who has lived with the pain of losing her mother, encourages anyone who needs help to reach out for it.

"You feel like no one cares, but someone cares," said Garner.

Click here for Alabama Suicide Fact Sheet.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. You can call 1-800-273-8255 or visit their website.

Copyright 2018 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.