I’ll always remember Erin Shigenaga as a charming, rather reserved girl, with musical talent to spare. This remarkable 15-year-old played the saxophone, clarinet, oboe and piano. She also had a smile that could light up a room—and fool everyone in it.
Her smile masked the anguish of a sweet, sensitive teenager trying desperately to cope with hurtful slights and cruelties committed regularly against her by some envious schoolmates. The pain became unbearable following a sexual assault by a fellow member of her high school band. Last year, a week before Thanksgiving, she took her own life.
At the funeral, Erin’s mother Nancy eulogized her and saw an opportunity to speak out against teenage brutality. She urged the many high school students in the pews to “care for each other and offer help when a friend is down.” It is her belief that simple acts of kindness can help prevent tragedies like the one that struck her, her husband Gary and their older daughter Alexandra.
Her words were an appeal to everyone present—of every age. They were also an inspiring display of Nancy Shigenaga’s compassion for others on a day darkened by the most profound personal sadness imaginable.
The sadness remains, of course. But the Shigenagas have turned compassion into action by lending their support to WITH HOPE. Founded by the Amber Craig Memorial Foundation, this advocacy group is dedicated to promoting suicide prevention through education. And is it needed!
More children and young adults die from suicide each year than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke and chronic lung disease combined. And suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds.
Chances are, some of these deaths might have been prevented if parents, relatives or friends could recognize suicidal tendencies in time to get professional help for those who need it. The WITH HOPE website provides vital information on this and other subjects dealing with suicide prevention.
It’s also a port in the storm for anyone considering suicide, offering contact information for support groups and additional types of assistance
So if you suspect that someone you care about has reached a point in life where suicide is a possible alternative, or if you yourself feel that way, visit www.withhopefoundation.org And give WITH HOPE a chance to live up to its name.