If you were to read in a newspaper or hear on a news report that there is a disease that is spreading and one out of five Americans have it, chances are you would quickly make an appointment with your doctor.
What if this is actually not a hypothetical question at all, but a reality that has affected 42.5 million American citizens? What is your response?
The disease is mental illness, and the latest data published suggests that 42.5 million people, or one in every five citizens, has battled or is battling some form of mental illness, whether it is bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or depression.
Furthermore, research indicates that approximately 9.3 million Americans above the age of 18 suffer from a mental illness severe enough to impede everyday activities such as just going to work.
As September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, Fairview Republican staff reached out to former Fairview resident Jessica Quimby, in hopes that her experience may help someone who is considering suicide or self harm, and to help families who have recently experienced what she and her family have.
On Oct. 31, 2015, Jessica lost her first son, Aaron, to suicide; less than eight months later she lost another son, Derek, also to suicide.
Both deaths rocked Jessica to her core, as she had raised three sons from childhood as a single mother.
Her remaining son, Jeremy, now resides in Oklahoma City.
The following is a look into the life of a suicide victim as told by their surviving mother.
When asked during this interview about Aaron and Derek’s life, Jessica said both boys liked to party, but at the same time, both would do anything for anybody at a moment’s notice.
As for Aaron, since he was the oldest, Jessica said after he started a family of his own, which saw him be the dad to four children, now 11, 7, 6 and 2, that he was very determined to give them a childhood that he was never able to experience.
He wanted his children to know who their father was and just how much he loved each of his children.
Throughout his life, Jessica said Aaron would get frustrated and would occasionally grab a gun from his house and get in his truck and go drive county roads and be gone for hours at a time.
Though he might tell whoever he was arguing with or frustrated over that he was going to kill himself, he would always drive the back roads and find targets to shoot at.
Most of the time he said what he did was a way to end the argument and was a way to make people stop the bickering.
Jessica said no one in the family ever gave it much thought that he was going to hurt himself, because they knew how he was.
Throughout most of his life, Jessica said Aaron did experience bouts of depression and as a result, he went to live with his father in Texas as a teenager in an effort to try to find some relief.
Jessica said throughout most of his life Aaron spent the majority of his time just looking for that “one missing piece” to complete his life and fill the void caused by depression.
As hard as he tried, Jessica said Aaron never felt as though he was the person he truly wanted to be or that he was ever good enough for everybody and that always ate at him.
Even as early as grade school he met regularly with a counselor to help him with his issues.
Late in 2015, Aaron fell into two addictions, gambling and drinking, and as a result his relationship with his wife ended mid October, 2015.
From that point Aaron’s depression symptoms worsened as he tried to make amends with his wife.
Finally on Halloween night, Aaron met his wife and they took the children Trick-Or-Treating together before going out to dinner.
Around 2 or 3 a.m. Jessica and Derek, who was living with her that time, awoke to the sound of people knocking on the doors and windows of their home.
As she looked out the window, Jessica remembers seeing police officers in her front yard. Her first thought was Aaron had done something and had been arrested.
Jessica woke up Derek and they answered the door together. The police officer at the door then told Jessica and Derek, “There’s no way I can prepare you for this, but Mark Aaron shot himself tonight, and he didn’t survive.”
When she heard the news Jessica remembers thinking to herself and saying, “No he didn’t, that’s my son and I know he can be dramatic sometimes, but no this isn’t real, he’s not leaving.”
Although the officers were great and offered help for Jessica and told her to call anytime, she didn’t care at the time and she was in shock and didn’t know what to do next.
It was then another piece that is woven into the fabric of modern day society hit Jessica, social media.
Jeremy was attending SWOSU in Weatherford and Jessica wanted to tell him in person what happened, but as the news of Aaron’s suicide was already making rounds on Facebook, Jessica and Derek ended up driving to Weatherford in the early morning hours. They wanted to break the news to him in person before he read any of the Facebook posts.
After Aaron’s death, Jessica and her family learned the good and bad of living in a smaller community.
The support she received was great and welcomed, but it did little to ease the pain from actions and words of others.
She said because suicide is considered to be taboo, she would actually have people that she had known for a long time approach her and say terrible things about what was going to happen to Aaron since he committed suicide.
As hard as it was coping with the passing of Aaron, it was often more difficult to hear the things being said on Facebook and in person. Adding to the heartache was the fact that each comment was making her relive everything that happened.
“As a mother, it was my job to raise him and look after him physically and mentally, and ‘Where did I go wrong, what more could I have done?’ were just some of the questions that weighed heavily on me after Aaron’s death.”
Unlike Aaron, Derek had never really battled depression and was always a happy person to be around.
Although Jessica admits the boys were “wild,” after Aaron’s death, Derek’s life slowly began to spiral out of control.
By May 2016, Derek’s decisions resulted in him being arrested and booked into Major County Jail.
He was released shortly after being booked but a few weeks later he found himself back in the same spot, Major County Jail.
It was during his second time in jail that he took a turn for the worst mentally. One night a friend with similar addictions as Derek, who he was also sharing a cell with, observed Derek attempting to hang himself. The friend’s quick actions ended up saving Derek’s life that night.
Following his suicide attempt, Derek was sent to a treatment center in Enid. Following a short stay at the treatment facility, Derek returned home, though he wasn’t the same, as he frequently made comments stating he wanted to see Aaron again.
While at work on June 23, 2016, Jessica missed a phone call from Derek’s estranged fiancée and had a voicemail telling Jessica to call her.
After a few minutes, Jessica was able to make it to a break room and return the phone call.
What she heard she couldn’t believe, Derek’s fiancée told her that Derek shot himself. Derek was alive and was being flown from Fairview Regional Medical Center to Oklahoma City.
Jessica said she collapsed when she heard the news. She remembers thinking that this couldn’t be happening again and that it wasn’t real.
Due to her emotional state, Jessica’s mother picked her up from work and they made the trip to Oklahoma City together.
Jessica still remembers thinking that Derek was on a helicopter and with all the modern medicine that the hospital would be able to save Derek’s life.
When she arrived at the hospital and was finally able to see Derek, he was in the trauma department with bandages all around his head.
It wasn’t until a Life Share nurse spoke with Jessica and Jeremy that she finally realized the extent of his injuries and the fact that he wasn’t going to be able to survive.
In the early morning hours of June 24, 2016, Derek succumbed to his injuries.
Jessica said the pain was immeasurable following the death of both sons, but she said it was even more intense after Derek’s death because she had to live both deaths all over again.
Although Derek might have died that day, his legacy of helping others remains well intact.
Derek’s friend, who witnessed and intervened during his suicide attempt at Major County Jail, has now been sober for over a year.
Another friend, who witnessed the destruction of Aaron and Derek’s family, turned himself into law enforcement so that he could be locked up and begin the process of leaving the toxic lifestyle of drug abuse.
Also another friend made the decision to leave the drug lifestyle and she has been sober for just over a year.
Then there was the case of the Life Share nurse. After agreeing that Derek could be an organ donor, Derek’s lungs were successfully transplanted in a man in his 60s. Meanwhile a man in his 30s received his liver and a woman in her 30s received his kidneys.
Jessica said the man who received Derek’s lungs reached out recently and wanted to meet, but she said it is still too soon.
Everyday is a constant battle, but she makes herself get through it, though some days are significantly tougher.
She does take solace in the fact that Derek’s death helped save other lives.
As far as advice for people, her biggest take away from Aaron and Derek’s death is that she wants everyone to truly be kind to each other, because in her case, we truly don’t know what someone else is going through and how much something as simple as just a thoughtful hello could change someone’s day for the better.
For any parents who have experienced the suicide of a family member, she strongly urges them to get help. She added, “We all think we are tough and can handle it but at the end of the day we aren’t professionals and it’s okay to ask for help from someone who is.”
Although there are many hotlines available, Jessica said sometimes the best thing you can do if you know someone considering suicide is to just be there for them. Be a friend and truly listen to them.
Aaron and Derek’s lives will be honored during the “Out of the Darkness” walk in Woodward Oct. 7. The event is open to the public and is designed to honor the memory of those who have committed suicide and to serve as another chance at life for those who have attempted it.