Ed. — What follows are remarks from the Out of the Darkness Community Walk at Mount Trashmore this past month, which gathered people in awareness about depression and suicide. Kym Bach’s son and Steve Bach’s stepson, Evan Collins, was 20 when he died by suicide. This version of their remarks has been edited for space. The Independent News is grateful for the opportunity to publish it. For more on the walk, Josh Whitener’s story can be found at this link.
Steve Bach: Like everyone here who is a parent, I know you understand what it is like to love your child – more than life itself, and, like you, we would do anything to keep them happy, healthy and safe. Kym and I thought we were doing just that.
Kym Bach: Steve and I stand before you wishing that we knew a few years ago what we tragically know now. We hope our story will keep your child healthy and safe.
Steve Bach: That Sunday was very hectic. I had found out that there was a water leak in the wall behind the kitchen sink. I had to remove all the exterior siding of the house down to the studs and cut the section of bad pipe out. I made a list of things we needed to complete the repair, and my wife and I left to go get the stuff. We stopped to get gas. Our daughter called very upset, talking about Evan and telling us we needed to come home now. So we stopped the gas pump, and my wife drove us home. The whole time I was trying not to show signs that I was worried so as not to upset Kym further. As we drove up, we saw police cars and an ambulance.
Kym Bach: When I saw the flashing lights, I heard myself say, “This can’t be good.” While we waited for word, they started putting up yellow crime scene tape. Then suddenly the emergency medical technicians were taking the stretcher back to the ambulance. It was empty. They didn’t need to rush anyone to the hospital…. A police officer walked up to us and said, “He didn’t make it.” My perspective on life changed forever. I would think of life as before Evan’s death and after Evan’s death.
Steve Bach: The police officer told us it was a self-inflicted gunshot. We were all in shock. We didn’t know what to do. We started to call family members and friends to let them know what happened. I remember that it was so overwhelming that I had to focus on doing something to keep from being swept away. … I thought I may never be able to have my children or my wife leave my sight without the fear that I’d never see them again.
Kym Bach: The first several weeks after that are a total blur. I can remember not having much time to do anything. I was so busy planning a funeral, something I’d never done before — and it was a funeral for my son. … Before he died, I knew what I would do every day, and then suddenly I didn’t. I would just sit down and stare. I didn’t even know what I was staring at. I wonder if I even blinked.
Steve Bach: Once I heard someone say that many times people take their life not because they wanted to end their life but because they wanted to end the pain any way they could, and that when you’re that severely depressed you can’t think straight. Your despair keeps you from believing that anything will get better — that nothing can help. Tragically, Kym and I think that’s what happened with our son. Back then, we didn’t understand how depression works. What we saw was that Evan was handsome, personable and had many friends. He was actively pursuing a career as an emergency medical technician. He was an avid runner and skateboarder. Things in his life were looking up. Evan believed you should “live life,” something he regularly said to us. He was a happy-go-lucky guy on the outside, but on the inside he was hurting so much. I didn’t put together the symptons of depression at the time, but in hindsight:
► There were previous times he was emotionally very low or even distant.
► He always had difficulty handling anger or stress.
► If down, he would often use alcohol to cope.
Now I know that suicide is the result of untreated depression.
Kym Bach: Like Steve, I would never have imagined that Evan would take his own life. He wasn’t the moping, 24-seven depressed person you see on television. Before Evan’s death, I never really thought about suicide. Even though Evan had a previous episode of self-harm, I didn’t take it seriously because I thought that only others had to deal with “that,” and that suicide was a completely selfish act. In these four years, through the grief work and in the healing, I’ve come to understand that Evan was depressed. There must have been something chemical going on, and the alcohol made it worse. As a result, his brain couldn’t do its job. He couldn’t think straight, and his perception was distorted. Everything to him must have looked very hopeless.
Steve Bach: For me, in these four years, what has helped us most is grief counseling. There were so many cutting questions left unanswered. Why? How could he? What if I … ? And the guilt probably cuts the deepest. Counseling has helped us deal with those questions. Kym and I were insistent that our children get help, too. They were left with such strong and conflicting emotions. … Also, we went to the Hampton Roads Survivors of Suicide Support Group from the beginning. It helped us be with people who truly understood. Finally, we volunteered at the Out of the Darkness Community Walk. We take care of the Memory Wall. Being here with you today also brings us some peace. I’m glad you’re here with us this morning.
Kym Bach: Steve and I never imagined that we’d be asked to speak at this walk in front of so many people. We are speaking here today because we want to make a difference so that Evan didn’t die in vain. We want someone who has either suffered from depression or lost a loved one to suicide to hear our words and to understand that healthy healing and grieving is achievable. If we can make a difference in even one person’s journey, then all of our work means something. What we wished we had known for our child, you can learn for yours ….
Evan is here with us forever, and we will always miss him. We are sure you understand we’d give anything to have him back. Being here with you this morning makes us feel close to Evan, I feel like I can still do something for my son. I love you Evan. On behalf of Evan and our children, Steve and I hope our story will have a personal meaning to each of you.