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Commentary by Mike: When answers bring more questions


Just wow.

And not in a good way.

I’ve been doing this a long time, too long depending on who you ask, but I digress.

Dealing with end-of-life stories is never easy, even when the subject has lived a long, prosperous and healthy life. Often those instances are built up to, meaning there has been a long illness or generally deteriorating health due to age, that kind of thing.

Families and friends have time to deal with loss, separation and pain.

And then there is suicide.


Sudden, Final, Shocking.

I had 24 hours notice when my Sunday appointment was confirmed with Wendy McKillop and her daughter Jennifer to discuss the loss of son and brother Jeff who committed suicide May 18, just nine days before.

I’ve known Wendy and Jenn for about 15 years going back to their extensive volunteer time with the Smithville Fair. Good people. Typical of West Lincoln folk.

Nobody deserves what they are going through.

The reason for my visit – at their request – was to start if not continue the conversation about awareness for mental illness. In Jeff’s case there are various specifics but for the purposes of this offering and anything else you see in our pages, let’s just consider the vast array of mental illness as one massive health care category which can use some attention.

I don’t profess to understand some of the issues dealt with in my Page 8 story or those discussed in general with Wendy and Jenn, as well as with Flavio Iammarino (more on him later).

Complex could be a more simplistic word, almost insulting, really, when you attempt to sum up the ins and outs of what people are feeling, their desperation for improvement, their pain, their loneliness. I simply cannot imagine.

If you can imagine, or if you or someone in your family is in or even close to these incredibly dark and bottomless places, please read on.

To prepare for my interview, I gave Flavio a quick call earlier in the day.

I had become familiar with him in 2016 when he prepared a two-part series I ran over Christmas about dealing with depression over the holidays. His referral came through a fellow I have a lot of respect for in Tom Beach, who some of you may know from Handling Speciality. Tom and Flavio had worked together to host a free public open house for men to come and talk – really about anything that was on their mind, but it had a focus on pressures – work, family and otherwise.

I recall Tom saying he was floored by how open and by how much the men in the room needed to talk.

He was as surprised as the McKillop’s were at Jeff’s demise.

They knew Jeff had long had issues, since he was two years old, in fact. he was open about it and talked about it, but, again, that word complex pops up.

He talked, but not necessarily to family or friends. People whom he barely knew seemed to know a whole lot more, said Wendy, much to her surprise about finding out at Jeff’s funeral.

But while much is complex and difficult to understand, there are core themes which are frightening in their repetition.

In speaking with Flavio initially, he told me several things which, word for word, came from Wendy and Jenn a couple of hours later.

Mainly, he believed Jeff saw death as his only manner in which to find peace for his mind. That came back word for word right from Jeff’s own hand in the suicide note he started writing on his phone back in April.

#2, Flavio noted that no matter what people did or said it was never enough. Jeff saw no improvement and simply didn’t believe there was a better future on the horizon. That, too, came out.

Jeff was 31, but he felt great pain from a very early age. We hear all the time about the pressures youth are under these days. While some may say everyone has pressure at all stages, I say who cares why or how they feel what they feel, let’s see if we can do something to help.

To that end, Flavio has offered and the McKillops wholeheartedly agreed to participate and help in any way with a public, free seminar/open house which Flavio will come and moderate. I implore anyone who is having a hard time or knows someone having a hard time and wants to understand how to help where possible to attend.

As soon as I get this deadline done, I will set about teeing up a venue. Info will be in next week’s edition.

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