While those who commit suicide hope to end their own pain, the suffering they leave behind can last family members and friends for the rest of their lives.
Akio Takami's son, Satoshi, committed suicide in April 2009 after several prior attempts. He'd been diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder.
"This was not out of the blue but the exact timing of his final attempt was a surprise to my wife and me," Akio Takami said. "It was the day after Easter Sunday. My wife talked to him Easter and he was in a good mood. He talked to several friends the week leading up to his suicide, thanking them for being such good friends, probably his way of saying good-bye. He died the following afternoon, Monday, after having bought donuts for the local skate-park kids."
While Takami lives in Pleasanton, Satoshi was living on the California side of Truckee when he died.
Different people deal with the stress of losing a loved one in different ways, as evidenced by Takami and his wife.
"It has been three years and a few months but we have been going through the grief process pretty much on a different path. For example, I don't mind talking about my son's suicide in public, and I have been attending a suicide support group. My wife likes to talk about him anytime one on one, just not in a group," he said.
Takami also joined hundreds of others in June at an overnight walk, "Out of the Darkness," to raise money for suicide prevention, to increase awareness about depression and suicide, and to bring together those who have suffered the loss of a family member or friend through suicide.
"My stepdaughter also participated. We made it through and it was a very emotional and empowering experience," Takami said. In an online blog about the walk, he noted that he "turned inward" after Satoshi's death.
"I felt invisible walls surrounding and suffocating me. More often than not, I feel little energy to deal with others," Takami said, pointing to monthly meetings to the Tri-Valley Survivors of Suicide Loss support group, as one exception. "It is then that I sense instant connections with others and I feel replenishment of positive energy and support."
The group meets the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at a private home in Livermore and can be reached at 872-5634.
One thing those who live on after someone they care about has committed suicide have in common is the doubt and questioning that follows.
"I think, 'Why?' 'How?' and, 'What could I have done?' all of those things," Takami said.
Those are the same questions asked by Patricia Haller and her son Tristan about David Woolman, who stayed at their Pleasanton home on and off for about three years. Woolman committed suicide in March after moving to China to teach English there.
"I never saw it coming. I had Skyped with him maybe two weeks before and I knew he had broken up with the girl he was with. There's always the questions -- if I had Skyped him more, asked him more questions," said Patricia Haller.
"He had tried so many other things to get on his feet, he was so excited and talking about where he was going to go after China, maybe Spain, maybe Russia. He had finally found a direction. If I hadn't driven him to the airport, if I hadn't given him the luggage -- I guess you always second guess yourself and think of something you could have done."
Tristan Haller described Woolman, who was 23, as "a very happy-go-lucky guy."
"My guess is he'd have been in a more manic state of mind than a depressed state of mind. He was impulsive," Tristan Haller said of his friend.
Woolman left for China in the summer of 2011.
"He seemed to be doing well. He went and visited Thailand. He had a girlfriend. I think that's what precipitated (his suicide) -- it was a difficult breakup," Patricia Haller said. "I never saw depression. His sister told me there is a history of bipolar disorder in his family, especially in the men. I didn't see anything that I recognized as a danger sign. I didn't see anything I'd recognize as depression. I wish with all my heart that he had called somebody. Even his friends that he Skyped with regularly, it came as a shock."
Patricia and Tristan Haller also participated in the Out of Darkness walk in June.
"I walked with a woman who had lost a brother, a son and a grandson all to suicide. You think you're over it but you're never very far away," Patricia Haller said.
"So many people who have been touched by suicide hide it as if it's something that's shameful. It's painful," she continued. "Talk to someone, reach out to people, because there are people there. Mental health is an illness, like pneumonia, like diabetes. The more we make it not OK or shameful, the harder it is to seek help. There is help."
If you experience these feelings, get help. If someone you know exhibits signs of depression or expresses suicidal thoughts, offer help. For assistance, contact:
* A community mental health agency;
* A private therapist or counselor;
* A school counselor or psychologist;
* A family physician;
* Suicide prevention:
Alameda County 24 hour hotline: (800) 309-2131
National Hotline: (800) 784-2433, (800) SUICIDE