Remembering Tommy – Five Years – November 3, 2011

Five years is a lifetime ago. Five years is yesterday. Five years is hard to believe.

November 3, 2006 divides my life into the before and after. The anger is gone, the guilt remains. It’s possible to move forward, but impossible to let go. Tommy lives in my heart and in my thoughts and as bizarre as it sounds, I feel his presence and a closeness that did not exist in the last months of his life. The tragedy of his death is the loss of a promising young life, the unfulfilled potential of a boy becoming a man, the happiness and the successes, and yes, the sadness and disappointments that would have been his.

I may be prejudiced, but I think the good would have outweighed the bad and Tommy would have made the world a better place. He leaves a legacy of family and friendship and love and loyalty. He was extremely bright, he was funny, he was fiercely independent, he was an adolescent with many interests and talents, and a creative streak as well. Let us remember Tommy as he lived and how wonderful it was to have him be part of our lives.

It wasn’t until shortly before his tragic death that we had an inkling of the psychological pain and illness that was plaguing him. He was a good kid, an adolescent breaking away from family we thought. How wrong we were. As we approach another November 3rd, let us be mindful of the hard and all too costly lesson we have learned – that mental illness is a disease, not a character flaw or something that will go away or take care of itself.

Currently there are no empirical tests to diagnose mental illness. Diagnosis and treatment are tricky and admittedly it may take years to get it right. But treatments and help are available. We must take care of our mental health just as we take care of a broken bone, cancer, heart disease, etc. And in a world where stigmas are attached to mental illness, it is all of our responsibility to raise awareness and encourage individuals to seek help for themselves or those they love. There is HOPE.

We made mistakes with Tommy.

We did not understand mental illness and it’s tragic consequences.

I failed to look beyond the adolescent who presented himself so favorably. I attributed his “symptoms” as those of an adolescent breaking away from his parents. I was scared and did not believe that tragedy would strike my family. All parents make mistakes. Most parents have the luxury of time…time for their children to grow, mature and turn out OK. Then in hindsight the mistakes made don’t seem important. But with Tommy the mistakes I made will forever haunt me.

So today I dedicate myself to raising awareness and helping others seek and access the care they so desperately need. I thank all the members of the Tommy Fuss Team for all they do to raise awareness and prevent suicide and to all of you who have supported us over the years. Through our private foundation we are investing in medical research that will lead to a greater understanding of mental illness in hopes of developing more effective tools for diagnosing and treating the disease. There is HOPE.

With love from RoseMary