Son’s death leads to fundraiser to benefit prevention of youth suicide
By Michelle Linn-Gust For The Sun February 25, 2013 12:54PM
Jonathan Kaden a few days before his death in July 2011. He was a junior at Naperville Central High School when he died. | Submitted
At A Glance
What: “A Long Way Down,” a staged reading based on the novel by Nick Hornby; fundraiser for the American Association of Suicidology’s National Center for the Prevention of Youth Suicide
When: 8 p.m. March 1 and 2; 2 p.m. March 3
Where: Center Stage Theater; 1665 Quincy Ave., suite 131, Naperville
Cost: Suggested donation of $10 to $20 and more
For more information: Call 630-355-9212
Web: To learn more about the American Association of Suicidology, learn the warning signs of suicide, and make a donation to the National Center for the Prevention of Youth Suicide, go to: www.suicidology.org
Prevention: If you are worried about yourself or a loved one, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Updated: March 28, 2013 6:14AM
Ken Kaden called the American Association of Suicidology office in Washington, D.C., because he wanted the donations from an upcoming performance to be donated to the organization’s National Center for the Prevention of Youth Suicide. He also requested that someone from the organization speak at the event. Little did he know AAS’s president lives in Naperville.
While he stands on one end of the journey, less than two years past the suicide of his son Jonathan in July 2011, in several weeks my sister will have died 20 years ago.
Similarities run through our stories, though: our loved ones were each 17 when they died, and they both died in Naperville. Jonathan was interested in journalism at Naperville Central High School where he attended school; I have a degree in journalism. And while we are on different ends of the spectrum in our grief journeys, Ken and I both want to see the issue of suicide brought to the forefront.
According to AAS, about 4,300 youth take their lives each year in the United States. It is the third leading cause of death for youth behind accidents and homicide. Youth suicide presents a huge loss not just for families and loved ones but also for society as a whole. It’s a life that was cut short and ended too soon for reasons loved ones never truly understand.
Clinical psychologist Joe Roszkowski, of Pathways Consulting in Winfield, works mainly with youth and their families. He sees depressed and suicidal teens too often.
“There is a lot of pressure on kids,” Roszkowski said. “It’s always been there, but it’s more so now.”
With social media and the Internet, kids can never leave bullying behind because it follows them on their phones home and wherever they go.
“Technology creates a sense of isolation,” he said. “Sometimes kids are spending more time with technology than with their families.”
Top that with the stress they feel trying to live up to school expectations.
“There is a sense of hopelessness, and it’s one of the primary factors in feeling like there is no way out,” Roszkowski added. “Depression distorts a lot of assumptions about the self and one’s future.”
To help kids, he suggested that they find good friends and at least one open and supportive adult. They also need activities they can do with others to create positive self esteem about themselves. Finally, it’s important that they have exposure to the signs and symptoms of depression and suicide, and know it’s OK to communicate when they need help.
While Ken can’t bring his son back, he wanted to do something to honor Jonathan. He chose a staged reading based on the novel “A Long Way Down,” by Nick Hornby, also the author of “About a Boy” and “High Fidelity.”
“This is a tribute to him and to bring the issue to the forefront,” his dad said.
Part of Ken’s grief journey was editing a piece of the book down, a story about people contemplating suicide and dealing with it through humor and dialogue. Via email, Hornby gave Ken permission to use the book as he saw fit.
There are many regrets Ken lives with, but mostly he knows that his son, despite his pain and unhappiness in life, had a lot to contribute. And for Ken, he doesn’t want to see other families endure what he does every day.
“I hope people understand this is a very present problem that isn’t going away,” he said. “I want people to be aware of it, talking about it in a way that doesn’t hold it as mysterious or romantic. I wanted to burst that bubble; suicide isn’t about riding into the sunset. It’s brutal, ugly and hurtful.”
I’ll be at each of the performances, saying a few words about AAS, youth suicide, and where I have landed on my journey. Mostly though, I’ll be there to support the Kaden family on a road that I know too well.