East Machias mother sharing son's story to bring suicide awareness

EAST MACHIAS, Maine (WABI) - "It was a very painful day."

On April 13th, Brandis Townsend's 19-year-old son, Michael, took his own life.

"It was very, very painful because he was so happy. And nobody saw it coming. Not a single one of us. So, it was very unexpected,” she says.

Brandis says she's tried to pinpoint what led her son to suicide.

"He had a rocky start with his biological parents, and I think that left a scar that never really healed for him. But the resources here are just so limited here. And we don't have enough resources, especially for young youth and involvement for them to get into so that they can have a proper outlet and learn how to function positively,” she says.

When it comes to depression, Dr. David Prescott says the disease can be difficult for some people to see.

"There are clear losses in their life, like a breakup of a relationship, loss of a loved one, loss of a job. I think for some people, their mood just starts to turn, and when it turns down, like it does for all of us, it turns really deeply. So, we know that medications as well as counseling helps for depression and researchers think that some of us are predisposed to feel those lows a little bit more. Some of the frustrating things, sometimes you really can't find a cause. One of the most frustrating things is that they never even get to some of the professionals like we have here at Acadia Hospital,” says Prescott.

He says while it's important to let people know there are resources like national hotlines available 24-7, family members and friends should be aware of the signs of depression and suicide, like withdrawal from normal activities, mood swings, changes in sleeping patterns, and talking about suicide. He says talking to them is a critical step.

"It's huge. Think of people who are contemplating suicide as in kind of a bubble. And they need you to kind of step in there with them and just show some caring and just show that you're willing to walk a little way with them,” says Prescott.

Just simply talking about feelings can be an extremely effective way to begin to see there is hope.

Brandis hopes people will hear her message.

"Just talk to somebody. Know that the pain that you think you're easing with this choice, you don't get to come back. You don't get another birthday. You don't get a Thanksgiving. You don't get a Christmas. You don't get to see a sunrise. A sunset. There's no more fresh rain on pavement for you. And you leave your family trying to get through that birthday, that sunrise, that sunset, that next holiday knowing that they're not going to be there. So, please, just know that in this we have seen so many that have loved Michael so much. You are loved. You are loved so much, and I just wish he could feel all the love that we've gotten in return. He had it. He had it every day. He just needed to reach for it,” she says.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline available to anyone.

You can reach them by dialing 1-800-273-TALK.