New Book ‘Without Tim’ Releases on World Suicide Prevention Day

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, and one mom has written a memoir in the hopes that her story will save someone else’s child or loved one. Her son, Tim Schenke, committed suicide at age 18 in 2008 when he stepped in front of a moving train. The boy suffered from depression but was highly functioning at school as a student and an athlete. Of course, his mother, Lisa Schenke, wishes she had noticed more and done more. That’s why she wrote Without TimShe’s spent years healing from her devastation and giving advice to other parents. Sadly, her son was one in 10 kids who committed suicide in Southern Monmouth County, New Jersey, in a four year period. The area reeled from sadness. This is her story.

Through writing and reaching out, Lisa has slowly started to pick up the pieces of her life. She had to–she has other children to love and protect. Here’s what she has to say about her new book, Without Tim.

KK: September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day (and September is Suicide Prevention Month).  How are you bringing awareness and changing families by sharing your son’s story?
I am truly grateful that suicide prevention is getting more and more attention each year. The takeaway message from the awareness campaign is:  Suicide IS preventable. I feel that the idea of a particular day/month continues to raise awareness and that is very important because it spreads information about the warning signs and treatment options, and helps decrease the stigma surrounding suicide.

KK: Is there a checklist you would like to share with parents on the signs of mental health issues in their children? What do you now know about the important “TO DOs” about depressed children?
As a mom and parent, I would recommend trying to stay as positive as possible — i.e. continue to reinforce that everything will be ok, that you are there for them, that things will get better. Sometimes when I was under stress, I don’t think I stayed as positive as I would have liked to be. It’s hard. Try to help your child understand that it’s ok to have fears and insecurities and that there is a way to get to a better place. Try to remain calm and patient; something I wish I would have been better at.

If you feel your child is depressed, therapy is critical to his/her recovery. If your child doesn’t feel a connection to the first therapist, try another. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right match. Even though it is hard to “start your story all over again” with a new person, it is definitely worthwhile once a good connection is established.

I recommend a mental health checklist ,and I suggest using an OFFICIAL checklist. I think the checklist from Mental Health America is very comprehensive.

It’s best to err on the side of caution — though most troubled teenagers will not end up going through with suicide, they most likely need support and professional help.

KK: What made you decide to write Without Tim?  This book is about such a devastating and very personal subject.
Just around the time of the two-year anniversary of Tim’s death, the spring of 2010, I realized that I had a story to tell, a story that might help others. My initial goal had been to try to help those who were grieving, especially from a suicide. However, the further along I got with organizing my thoughts and the content for the book, the more I realized I had a bigger goal: to help teens and young adults who are struggling with the many issues facing them today. I hope the book speaks to those who are grieving, parents in general, young people who are struggling, and young people who seek to understand how and why so many of their friends are suffering. I was also motivated to write because people were always asking me things like, “how do you survive?,” and “how do you get up in the morning?” and similar questions.

Before I wrote the book, I began journaling things I wanted to remember about the early part of my recovery, such as: signs from Tim, special things people did for me, interactions I had with family, Tim’s friends, and other young adults. I then started journaling things I really wanted to remember about Tim while he was alive, such as: the way Tim always wanted the inside when he and I were on the couch together, the numerous similarities in our personalities, and some more difficult topics including possible clues or insights into his sadness.

KK: What advice would you give to teens and young adults who doubt their own self-worth and/or possibly feeling suicidal?
I would first try to help them realize that they are NEVER alone. There are so many people willing to help, even though it may not seem that way. There are friends who are approachable, adults other than the individual’s own parents who are available, as well as qualified therapists and trained professionals on suicide prevention hotlines. I would also encourage the individual to try to be patient. A rash, impulsive decision cannot be reversed. The bad feelings will pass. I’m not saying that they won’t return, because they certainly may, but most feelings come and go in cycles.

KK: What has brought you comfort throughout your grieving process?
I think the number one thing would be finding out just how many people truly loved Tim. It is always such a blessing when someone tells me a particular story about Tim, something special they shared with Tim, or something he did–either positive or negative! I am so fortunate to have connected with a wonderful grief counselor. I also came to realize that I have so many wonderful friends and I learned how to rely on them, slowly! And, of course, journaling and then writing the book has helped tremendously to clarify and solidify so many details that I never want to forget. Being an open person, in general, has brought me into so many worthwhile, heartfelt conversations with others.

KK: In what ways do you choose to honor your son Tim’s memory?
LS: In so many ways! I still have memories around the house, although not as many as I used to. I now have three tattoos, two that specifically honor Tim and one that is a tribute to my family: my husband, three children and myself. I am always posting to the Without Tim Facebook page.

I post things about Tim and my family, inspirational stuff, suicide prevention stuff, a large variety! I update my web site, Without Tim, and I use social media such as Twitter.  I love Facebook and really appreciate the support and feedback I receive, as well as helping others. I am willing to talk to anyone at almost any time: parents who are grieving, parents who are struggling with their teens, teens and young adults who are questioning their value.

I feel I am honoring Tim by helping others.

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