"She'd been on medication and in therapy for depression, but seemed to be responding."
Speaker confronts teen suicide, depression
By LINDA MARTZ • News Journal • July 29, 2009
MANSFIELD — James Weidlich is finally comfortable telling strangers about his daughter's suicide.
The family discovered 14-year-old Savannah after she hung herself at home July 15, 2004, after battles with depression.
Weidlich, who once ran a landscaping and contracting business, says this year he committed to a full-time mission to open up public discussion of suicide.
It's a topic many people find difficult to address, but Weidlich argues people should talk about it. "The cost of promoting the human comfort level is that people are dying," he said.
"There is a huge amount of secrecy and denial. We have done a really good job of scaring people out of talking about their own mental health," he said.
Weidlich, of Cambridge, brought his Families on Fire Mental Health Reality Crusade to Citichurch last week.
This Friday, Saturday and Sunday, he'll offer free public talks at the Quality Inn on Ohio 97, near Bellville.
Weidlich described his daughter as a good kid and an athlete. "My daughter had a very inspiring personality and a sense of humor. Yet she had an illness that took her life."
Young people come under tremendous pressure, he said. "It is a war zone for children, in our schools, on our playgrounds, in our streets."
Weidlich believes adults must take responsibility for spotting the signs a young person is contemplating suicide. He also believes adults must take action.
"I never want a parent to say, 'Just get over it' or 'I went through the same thing you're going through, and I got over it. Just toughen up,' " he said.
Severe depression is a physical illness, like diabetes or heart disease, he said. It should be discussed openly and swiftly treated.
After his daughter's death, Weidlich went through a long bewildering search into why it happened.
She'd been on medication and in therapy for depression, but seemed to be responding.
Weidlich, a single father, eventually found clues that indicated Savannah hadn't been doing as well as he thought. He doesn't want others to miss signs or ignore reality.
"That moment, on that night, in our house, is something that you do not want to experience," he said.
Now, from a "Families on Fire" camper, he spreads his message. He strikes up conversations about suicide in coffee shops and churches statewide. Making ends meet is difficult given his mission, but he's sticking to it.
"Depression-related suicide is the number one killer of our children. You absolutely have no excuse not to come and learn something."