I never had the privilege to meet Tommy, but I feel like I know him because of the love and vivid happiness in the stories that my husband, Ron, has told me through our 11 years together. Tommy was immensely loved by his friends and family and was an incredible friend to Ron, who has always describes him as the brother he always wanted. The Fuss family is like a second family to Ron as he and Tommy grew up together and attended Belmont Hill together over the years.
It was very difficult for Ron to share with me that he lost his best friend to suicide in his senior year of high school, one year before we met. When he did share this loss with me, I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear that someone who seemed so happy, was gifted in school, and was beloved by so many friends could be suffering so much internally. However, when Ron was brave enough to tell me about Tommy that night, it made me feel safe enough to share my own experience with a parent with mental illness.
My dad suffered from intense and debilitating depression and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). When I was in seventh grade I was told about his disorders because he needed to go and stay in what would be one of many stays in a rehabilitation hospital to help him with treatments to hopefully help him get well. His suffering was crippling to our family and was traumatic to experience as a child with little understanding of what was going on. I am thankful that over several years of treatment, when I was in college his symptoms were mitigated greatly with the help of doctors at Mass General Hospital and a treatment was given that finally helped him feel like himself again.
One of the worst parts of seeing my dad’s illness was feeling like I couldn’t tell anyone and not having anywhere to turn to for support. I thought I was the only one experiencing this and witnessing mental illness. I had never heard of or met anyone else suffering with mental illness. One thing that has always stuck with me is remembering that on the night I told Ron about my dad, Ron was the first person to say to me, “He will get better, I know he will.” The amount of hope and optimism Ron was able to bring to me was inspiring, especially considering the loss that he had so recently experienced.
I believe that by sharing our experiences with mental illness, we will bring about more awareness and destigmatize the topic so that more and more people will recognize that mental illness is real and that there are many people suffering who feel they have no options and no way out but taking their own lives. If we don’t share and talk about what is happening, then no one knows it is happening.
I am proud to walk in Tommy’s honor and have pledged to raise at least $1,000 for the AFSP. I ask you to please help me raise money for this important cause so that we can help support the AFSP’s inspiring goal of reducing the rate of suicide by 20% by the year 2025. Your donation helps to bring awareness, support, and scientific research to treat and prevent mental illnesses.
Thank you for reading my story and your consideration to donate.