Local teen suicide survivor: ‘Things really do get better’

Sam Nicholaisen feels like a different person from the teen who attempted suicide in 2015.

“The whole thing is kind of unreal to me because of where I am now,” the now 18-year-old Oakwood High School student said. “I feel like my life is nowhere near where I was back then. Time has really been the ultimate healer.”

RELATED: How Dayton region can stop record increase in teen suicides

Four years ago he was at his lowest point, he said. He was in an unhealthy relationship and hanging with friends who weren’t good for his mental well-being either.

He’d thought about suicide but said he didn’t really plan anything out before he attempted to take his life one night. When he awoke the next morning, he said he was indifferent about having survived.

Weeks of treatment and therapy that followed got him to a place where he knew he wasn’t going to harm himself again.

According to data from Nationwide Children Hospital’s Center for Suicide Prevention and Research in Columbus, nine of 10 people who attempt suicide do not die. Sharing stories of hope and overcoming suicidal thoughts is needed to prevent more deaths, said John Ackerman, suicide prevention coordinator at the center.

RELATED: Suicide, depression rates among teenagers growing

Medication and many more months of counseling brought Nicholaisen to the much happier place he’s in now.

“Things really do get better, and I never really believed that,” he said.

He tries to share that message with his peers, although he knows it can be difficult to hear.

“Everyone wants to believe that their problems are unique,” Nicholaisen said. “I really think when people hear other people who have been in their same situation, it gives them someone to relate to.”

He also wants to raise awareness in the community that suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts are prevalent among local teens and more needs to be done to prevent deaths.

Three young people he knew died by suicide in a six-month period this past school year.

“This is becoming almost an epidemic,” he said.

RELATED: Kettering Fairmont mourns death of student from suicide

His mom, Debbie Kirschman Klopsch, said suicide prevention is a world her family never expected to be a part of. But she now shares advice for other parents.

“I kind of felt like I had done everything,” she said of raising her three kids.

“I saw Sam was struggling,” she said, and she even got him into counseling before his suicide attempt, but maybe too late. If she could do it all over again, she’d be more direct in addressing the red flags she previously brushed off as normal teenage issues.

“There were things that I chose to think, ‘This is going to take care of itself,’” Klopsch said. “If you see a red flag, it really is.”

Kids learning to connect outside of social media could also help, Klopsch and her son agreed.

“They don’t talk. They’re all on their devices. You just text someone a happy face and expect them to feel better,” she said. “It’s very sterile.”

It’s difficult to show empathy via text, Nicholaisen said, and a lot can get misinterpreted.

RELATED: Why youth mental health is one of the Miami Valley's biggest issues

One of the things that has helped him the most is getting out and making friends he interacts with in person, like at his job as a lifeguard at Kings Island.

Focusing on a job or a hobby also helps take his mind off of dwelling on bad things, he said.

“Watch who you’re putting yourself around,” Nicholaisen said as advice for other teens. “And don’t be rash about stuff. Sit down and think … Is this really going to be important to me in three years?”

Nicholaisen will be a senior in the fall and takes classes at both Oakwood and Kettering-Fairmont. He’s looking forward to applying to college where he wants to study engineering.

Katie Wedell is a member of the Investigation & Community Impact Team for the Dayton Daily News. She's won several awards for investigative reporting from the Associated Press Media Editors of Ohio and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists. Contact her on Facebook and Twitter.


After his death Nov. 30, the family of 16-year-old Oakwood High School student Jacob Polete set up a memorial fund in his honor with the Dayton Children’s Foundation.

The Jacob D. Polete Endowment for Adolescent Behavioral Health & Suicide Prevention has raised $13,000 in six months for Dayton Children’s new inpatient behavioral health unit.

To make a donation visit www.childrensdayton.org/jacob-polete-fund or contact the foundation at getinvolved@childrensdayton.org or 937-641-3405.


  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated or reckless
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. Warning signs are associated with suicide but might not be what causes a suicide. — American Foundation for Suicide Prevention


If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide:

  • Do not leave the person alone.
  • Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
  • Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).
  • Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.


We have formed a team to dig into the most pressing issues facing the Miami Valley. The Path Forward project, with your help and with that of a 16-member community advisory board, seeks solutions to issues readers told us they were most concerned about, including the Miami Valley’s mental health.

Follow the project on our Facebook pages and at DaytonDailyNews.com/PathFoward and share your ideas.

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