MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - On April 8, 2016, the Farricker family’s lives changed forever.
Just weeks before their beloved daughter and sister McKenzie’s 16th birthday, she took her life.
“It seems like just yesterday, and I I think about it every single day,” said mother Alice Farricker. “I have to work hard to not focus on what happened that day.”
McKenzie was a sophomore at Alabama Christian Academy. She was involved in cheerleading, track and field, and made straight A’s. She was also the middle child of four siblings.
“She was compassionate, very friendly, always wanted everybody to be happy,” Farricker said. “She was very much about helping all of her friends all the time and trying to keep them happy, and she was very stubborn too.”
Farricker said she saw some signs of depression in her daughter that year, and they sought counseling for help, but suicide was not something she ever saw coming.
“I never in a million years, never in a million years, thought that she would ever try to kill herself,” Farricker said. “I had even asked her about it point blank, and she said I was crazy for even suggesting that idea, and so it came out of the blue.”
Farricker said one of the stigmas that comes with suicide is that people don’t ever think it will happen to them. She said in her case, the signs of suicide were hard to spot.
“You have no idea what people are thinking,” Farricker said. “She was so good at hiding what she was thinking and how she was feeling.”
Beverly Johnson, director of prevention services for the Alabama Department of Mental Health, lists some warning signs people can look for:
- depression or anxiety
- loss of interest
- reckless behavior
- neglect of personal appearance
- substance abuse
- giving away belongings
Farricker encourages parents to take these signs seriously.
“A lot of parents, including myself in the beginning, thought it’s just normal teen-aged angst,” Farricker said. “But now you don’t know what’s normal teen-aged stuff anymore so I would take a child to counseling, some kids require going into a hospital.”
Farricker has now become a suicide prevention advocate and is the vice president of the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) in Alabama.
Farricker’s biggest advice for those contemplating suicide?
“Just to speak up," Farricker said. “Not to be embarrassed. To tell a friend, a teacher, counselor, somebody. And talk to somebody and get counseling.”
Farricker also said “if it wasn’t for our faith I don’t know that we could have survived.”
According to the CDC, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. It was responsible for more than 48,000 deaths in 2018, resulting in about one death every 11 minutes.
Suicide affects all ages. The CDC reports that suicide is the second leading cause of death for people 10 to 34 years of age, the fourth leading cause among people 35 to 54 years of age and the eighth leading cause among people 55 to 64 years of age.
The Alabama Department of Mental Health offers training programs to educate people in the community about suicide prevention.
ADPH has partnered with the Alabama Suicide Prevention Resource Center and crisis centers around the state to offer suicide prevention training called QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) Gatekeeper Training. Like, CPR, QPR is an emergency response to someone in a suicide crisis. Participants learn how to identify a person in crisis, ask the right questions and know where to refer them for help.
It is a 1-2 hour training for the general public and teaches participants the warning signs for suicide and the three-step QPR method.
For more information on the training contact: email@example.com.