A Survivor: Reese Butler

By Chris YoungbloodNovember 20, 2010

Today is National Survivors of Suicide Day. Our team asked Reese Butler, Founder of 1-800-SUICIDE and a survivor of suicide, to share his journey through his loss. If you have lost someone to suicide, or know someone who has, we hope you will be reminded with each word that you are not alone.

I lost my wife Kristin Brooks Rossell-Butler to suicide April 7th 1998. She died as a result of poorly treated Postpartum Depression. Her disease resulted in a psychosis that landed her in a psychiatric hospital, where she hung herself on a suicide watch. The first year after her death was the most painful year of my life. The 2nd year after her death was only worse because it was the opposite, totally numb and a total loss of desire to live anymore. It was then that I learned how a depressed person could welcome death as a relief from the pain or hopelessness that ensued.

In spite of the pain, I turned to her diaries and the followed the only road map she left for me. I founded the Kristin Brooks Hope Center and created an educational fair that traveled to colleges to educate young women about Postpartum Depression, Bipolar disorder and Borderline personality disorder. At the time there were no national resources to give to people after sharing her story. I recognized that I couldn’t ignore the need to create a support system for the people who experienced similar struggles as Kristin. Building 1-800-SUICIDE and the National Hopeline Network totally consumed the KBHC and me for the next ten years.

During these years of healing and through my work with KBHC, I’ve learned that every survivor’s journey is different. But to not take the journey is to basically die emotionally. The greatest honor and tribute I could give Kristin was to become as healthy and productive as possible and use the power of that loss to help others not suffer the same fate. Loss can trigger in those left behind powerful emotions that if channeled can move mountains. Along my journey there have been so many things that have given me hope for tomorrow, from the incredible notes from people whose lives have been impacted by Kristin’s story, or to new treatments and studies showing the improvements in mental health treatment. Brain scans, such state of the art FMRI to SPECT scans, can now show us the chemical dysfunction in living color. We can see the disease! We can treat it better than we ever have, and we still only know a tiny fraction of how the brain functions.

Over the past few years we’ve learned through a 3 year – three million dollar study that suicide is preventable. The key is to care about the suicidal person and be able to connect in a meaningful way with them. There is no more accessible way than to do so online. This is where the vision for IMAlive was born. We can reach so many more people at risk and show them we care through using an instant message chat. IMAlive is designed to not only become the world’s first virtual crisis center network but for the first time have 100% of all crisis line workers certified and trained at the highest level of knowledge available to us today.

Reese Butler
Founder of Kristin Brooks Hope Center

If you have lost someone to suicide, or you want to learn more about the journey of survivors Reese suggested the following resources:

My Son My Son by Iris Bolton (the best book for a parent)
No Time to Say Goodbye by Carla Fine (best book for a spouse)
www.AFSP.org for listings of local survivor support groups
www.pos-ffos.com is another great online support group system

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