It's a story no one wants to tell and a story no one wants to hear. Another teenager lost to suicide. But, talk we must. It is essential to healing and serves as the impetus for dealing with the societal issue of rising suicide rates. On October 19, 2016, a single gunshot rang out. Days later, Gwendolyn LaCroix had to bury her 17-year old son, Jonah Payne. The reverberations from that personal earthquake continue to resonate on the emotional Richter scale.
Jonah Payne had struggled with bi-polar disorder and his mother was well aware of the difficulties that caused in her son's life. He had enrolled in the Early College Alliance at Eastern Michigan University, was making friends and seemed to be adapting well. His mom, Gwendolyn LaCroix, describes it as a "happy period" in his life. That made it all the more difficult when she learned of Jonah's death. On October 25th, 2016, she laid her son to rest.
How to move on? It is different for everyone. Gwen says she went to work the day after the funeral because she didn't know what else to do. She joined the anti-gun violence advocacy group Moms Demand Action and became a Survivors Fellow. And, with support from family and dear friends, like artist and choreographer Noelle Price, she continues to march on.
Noelle is a Detroit native who now resides in Seattle, Washington. She was driving in her new hometown when her mother called with news of Jonah's passing. Feeling distant and alone, with no real way of offering support to those living in despair back in Michigan, she turned to art. She began writing poetry. Then she put together a dance performace to express the pain and grief. But, she wanted to do more.
Noelle began talking with Gwen and discussing how to use her artistic sensibility and craft to remember and honor Jonah while, at the same time, creating a communal experience that would lead to open discourse on mental health issues and suicide. What she came up with is "Remember Me Young." The piece was first performed out west. Gwen flew to the Northwest to see it and was astounded at how much of what she had shared with Noelle made it into the performance piece. Now, for the first time, it is being performed where the rest of Jonah's family and friends can see it. While it won't change the outcome for Jonah, their collective hope is that it will pave a different path for others who are struggling.
If you are feeling suicidal, or know someone who is, there is a National Suicide Hotline, that provides free and confidential support, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 1-800-273-8255.
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