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.”
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.
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.
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.
HOW TO HELP
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.
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
WHAT TO DO
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.
ABOUT THE PATH FORWARD
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.