October 14, 2013

Maine siblings called to comfort the children of suicide

The three find healing in creating a camp for suicide survivors.

By Gillian Graham ggraham@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

WELLS — After their father committed suicide 12 years ago, the teenage Mosher siblings found themselves reeling with grief and a growing sense of isolation.

click image to enlarge

Siblings Sydney, Morgan and Isaiah Mosher, whose father committed suicide a dozen years ago, reflect on the loss before a fundraiser they were hosting at Wells Beach on Sunday. They are raising funds for Camp Kita, which will bring children of suicidal parents together for a week in the summer.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

The Mosher siblings, from left, Isaiah, Morgan and Sydney, pose for a family portrait with their parents, Martha and Christopher, more than a decade before their father committed suicide.

Courtesy photo

SUICIDE PREVENTION AND WARNING SIGNS

Talking about wanting to kill themselves, or saying they wish they were dead

Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as hoarding medicine or buying a gun

Talking about a specific suicide plan

Feeling hopeless or having no reason to live

Feeling trapped, desperate or needing to escape from an intolerable situation

Having the feeling of being a burden to others

Feeling humiliated

Having intense anxiety and/or panic attacks

Losing interest in things, or losing the ability to experience pleasure

Insomnia

Becoming socially isolated and withdrawn from friends, family and others

Acting irritable or agitated

Showing rage, or talking about seeking revenge for being victimized or rejected, whether or not the situations the person describes seem real

Individuals who show such behavior should be evaluated for possible suicide risk by a medical doctor or mental health professional.

Source: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

NEED HELP? IT’S JUST A PHONE CALL AWAY:

In Maine, immediate help is available 24 hours a day by calling (888) 568-1112.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available by calling (800) 273-8255.

“Helping Resources for You” information packet for suicide survivors is available by calling (800) 499-0027

If you need immediate help, call 911.

At 16, Morgan Mosher felt there was no one to talk to about the death of her father, Christopher.

“There were other kids in my school who had lost a parent to a car accident or cancer. This was a different kind of death to deal with,” said Morgan Mosher, now 27 and living in Cambridge, Mass. “You’re the kid whose parent chose to leave. It was isolating.”

Now, Morgan and her siblings – Sydney Mosher and Isaiah Mosher – have teamed up to found Camp Kita, a nonprofit foundation that will host a summer camp for young suicide survivors to meet and heal together. On Sunday they held their first major fundraiser, a memorial kite-flying event at Wells Beach.

It was a big step for the siblings, who rarely shared their stories of being suicide survivors.

“You feel very alone. You don’t think it’s happened at all around you,” said Isaiah Mosher, now 30 and living in Wells with his wife and children. “By bringing people together, they’re aware it happens to others and they’re not alone.”

Each year, 7,000 to 12,000 American children under 18 lose a parent to suicide, according to a 2012 study by the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

And that number is almost certainly rising along with a dramatic increase in the number of middle-aged adults committing suicide.

While increasing teen suicide rates have attracted widespread attention, the national suicide rate for adults between the ages of 35 and 64 has quietly increased 28 percent from 1999 to 2010, from 13.7 suicides per 100,000 people in 1999 to 17.6 per 100,000 in 2010, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Greg Marley, who oversees the Maine Suicide Prevention Program, said Maine reflects that increase. Between 2006 and 2010, the suicide rate among adults ages 35 to 59 increased by 35 percent, he said.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for Mainers, accounting for an average of 180 deaths annually. Four out of every five Mainers who commit suicide are male.

Marley said research shows that unemployment is a significant risk factor for suicide, although research has not established a clear link between unemployment and the increase in suicides. Other factors in recent years may include the economic downturn, change in status as a breadwinner for the family and feeling like a burden, he said.

With the rise in suicide rates, it’s important not only to watch for risk factors and get people help, but also support suicide survivors of all ages, including young children who may grapple with feelings of guilt, Marley said.

“It is shameful and embarrassing and it’s not unusual for people to tend to keep it secret or be discouraged from talking about it,” said Marley, who found out as an adult that his grandfather and great-grandfather died by suicide. “We find that many times people who are grieving the loss of someone close to them by suicide feel more comfortable and better understood when they’re grieving with other suicide survivors.”

Christopher Mosher was 42 and living in Wells when he committed suicide. He was a carpenter and an artist who often photographed and painted beach scenes. He cleared the land and milled the boards he used to build the house in North Berwick where his children grew up.

“He was a free spirit. He hitch-hiked across the country twice,” Morgan Mosher said. He often brought his children on long canoe trips, their boat so loaded with camping equipment it sat perilously low in the water.

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