Mother urges awareness of self-destructive behavior by David Lias In the course of the last eight weeks, Cynthia Haase of Vermillion has learned more than she ever hoped to know about suicide.
The lessons are part of her coping process following the Jan. 30 loss of her son, David Baier, who died by suicide during a Super Bowl party in Vermillion.
She has learned that a host of factors can lead a young person to consider and eventually commit suicide. She's convinced that, in the case of her son, alcohol played a major role in his death.
She fears that other young people could just as easily succumb to the deadly mix of depression and drinking. In many ways, she dreads the future, because she knows eventually there will be other reports of parents struggling with grief following the death of a child.
Haase said her son knew he was loved. He knew people cared about him. But that evidently wasn't enough to help him overcome feelings of self-destruction.
"They put in that juice (alcohol) and they don't know what they're doing," she said. "You've got to talk to them before something like this happens. Dave was probably the most perfect example of what you consider a normal 19-year-old child and all of a sudden he's gone. Why? Alcohol."
Haase said that she hopes her son's death will, in turn, allow her to help parents and young people deal with the issue of suicide.
"I want to be available to work with people that way, definitely," she said. "I believe that there may be a lot of parents who may not even be realizing that their children are vulnerable to have this happen. And, if they are aware of it, they don't know what to do."
Haase is aware that underage drinking is a problem with youth in the Vermillion community. People, she said, need to consider that this issue can lead to more deadly problems.
"There is a reason that the legal age for drinking is set at 21," she said. "Hopefully by then, you have dealt with enough of these emotional things in your life that if you start to get messed up with alcohol, you'll realize it's the alcohol and it's not the way life really is."
Haase said she learned after her son's death that he had earlier threatened to commit suicide while drinking with friends. She was never told that her son was harboring such thoughts.
"His friends didn't put any relevance on it, and when he sobered up, he said it was stupid," Haase said. "If I had known he had even talked that way when he was under the influence of alcohol, I would have been probing a little deeper. I would have been asking what's was going on in his head when he was drinking.
"I would have said, 'Are you sure this is something you want to be doing? It's going to mess you up,'" she added.
Haase said she and her husband didn't have a clue that her son was harboring an inclination toward suicide.
"They're young, and they've got hormones and they've got all of these feelings, and I don't think we as a society are addressing their needs at all," she said.
Haase said she knows now that her son's goal on that terrible Sunday in January was not so much to end his life, but to end pain that had become unbearable.
"Life still can be fun. Life still is an experience of joy, not just pain," Haase said. "What our young people aren't realizing is these are normal lumps and bumps. They're making mountains out molehills that are meaningless, and they are killing themselves over it."
The prevalence of suicide among young people may indicate that, in some cases, adults need to start examining their own behavior, she added.
"In order for society to make a dent in this, and to make any sense, we're going to have to look at our behaviors and what we're teaching our kids," she said.