In March 2007, Shawn Schunk of Redwood Falls died by suicide.
More than 11 years later his immediate family, including mom, Sue, dad, Al and siblings Melissa, Tina and Josh, gathered to talk about Shawn and to share a message.
“If you are thinking about suicide tell someone,” said Tina, adding there are lots of people available who want to help.
As the Schunk family sat around a dining room table, they talked about who Shawn was as a person. His dad recalled him as a kid being one who was a bit clumsy.
“I think if we had taken him to the hospital, Sue and I might have gotten arrested, because he had to many bruises from falling down all of the time,” said Al.
His mom remembered him as a happy kid who was always a daredevil.
His siblings remember him as the kind of person who always needed to know what was going on, as the kind of person who would dance on a table at a wedding reception and who was always the life of the party.
Yet, there was something darker, deep inside of Shawn that led to the decision March 17, 2007 when he took his own life.
“It just sucks,” said Josh.
The family grieves in various ways as they think back on his life.
For some of them a cloudy day can get them thinking about Shawn.
Al said the holidays are always hard, and his siblings added when they see their own children they wonder what he would have been like around them as they grew up. They all agreed Shawn would have been the favorite uncle.
Melissa said she had seen Shawn the day before his death, adding there are times when she thinks back on that day just wondering if there was something she might have done to trigger his decision, or if there was something she missed that could have prevented it.
Josh added it is the “what ifs” that continue to be a part of their life and always will be.
For Josh, the grief of a loved one’s death is hard enough, but he added when the loss comes in a situation like this, when you just don’t know why, it makes that grieving more difficult.
Al said he was the one who found him down by Gold Mine, adding there are days when he thinks about that and wonders what he might have done differently.
“He was on the north side of the river,” Al said, “and when I went there I went to the south side. I keep wondering to myself if I could have gotten there in time if I would have gone to the north side first.”
The Schunk family, as they sat around the table, offered words of encouragement to each other, reminding them that they can’t spend their lives blaming themselves for what happened to Shawn.
Sue said Shawn had Type 1 diabetes, adding they were told that the rate of suicide is higher amongst those with that diagnosis.
Looking back, family members can see some of the signs manifested in Shawn’s life, adding while he was not diagnosed with depression he definitely showed signs of it.
Josh said he believes the use of alcohol likely made the issues Shawn was facing even worse.
“I think he used it a lot to self medicate,” said Josh, adding he remembers Shawn always seemed to be a lot more depressed when he had been drinking.
Depression has been called a dark hole that people just can’t seem to climb out of, and the family expressed their sorrow in knowing Shawn was dealing with that by himself.
All of them just wish he would have looked to get some help.
Al and Sue agreed that having grandchildren has been a great help for them, as they often serve as a distraction when they are thinking about Shawn.
Al wondered aloud just how many more of those grandchildren blessings they would have right now if Shawn was alive.
The family offered words of encouragement to those who are thinking about suicide, adding they need to “think about the impact on others in their life.”
“Get some help,” said Al. “Even if things seem bad at that moment, just give it one more day and tell someone.”
• The annual age-adjusted suicide rate is 13.42 per 100,000 individuals.
• Men die by suicide 3.53 times more often than women.
• On average, there are 123 suicides per day.
• White males accounted for seven of 10 suicides in 2016.
• Firearms accounted for 51 percent of all suicides in 2016.
• The rate of suicide is highest in middle age – white men in particular.
– Courtesy of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention