Sweeping suicide under the rug creates shame and silence.
Supporting suicide loss survivors can help us stay above the rug together.
Lindsey Louise Doolittle
is an art educator, children’s author, artist to the Faces After Suicide exhibition and an award-winning filmmaker. Her advocacy began shortly after her late husband, Sgt. Brett Doolittle of the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department, died by suicide in 2015.
Suicide is different.
I thought my family in blue was going to be there for me. They weren’t. Even the night I found my late husband dead at our home and called his police department; the officers came, but kept their distance. I was on my hands and knees screaming for help and his colleagues stayed away. Every time I’ve reached out to my late husband’s chief, I have been met with silence. His chief didn’t even wear his uniform to his funeral. Not one officer has came over on their own, without me reaching out first.
His department blamed our marriage in the official police report & autopsy report. My late husband blamed his job for his death in his suicide letter (btw, the detectives left that out of the police report). I blame no one. His life exceeded his coping skills.
I think to myself, is this how the police department would treat me or his death if he had died in any other way? There is a growing problem of police departments blaming, shunning and denying support to the families of officer suicides. Support should be given to the families no matter how an officer dies. I’m not the only one who has been treated like this and this type of behavior doesn’t just happen within law enforcement.
A year and a half after his death, a crime took place inside my home and I wasn’t able to reach out to Brett’s department for help. I don’t think the police fully appreciate the magnitude of damage they cause when they blame the families of officer suicides..or maybe they do. I have been asked if I support the police. My answer is, “Where is our support?”
“SASS was the best gift I gave myself after his suicide.”
Weeks after her late husband’s death, she joined the support group SASS (Suicide Awareness Survivor Support). Doolittle united with other loss survivors and was educated on the stigma of suicide.
I teach K-5 elementary art and my students wanted to know what happened to Officer Doolittle. I also had young nieces and nephews who wanted to know what happened to their uncle. Lying to them would only continue the stigma.
When the blanks weren’t being filled in, my students started to make up their own answers. They told stories that he died in a house fire or had been shot in the line of duty. None of it was true.
I asked my former principal if I could at least tell our students that my late husband was sick. My principal’s response was, “I wouldn’t even go that far.”
Their reply made me feel ashamed and even more isolated in my grief. Schools support one another and raise awareness when someone in the community dies of physical illnesses: cancer, diabetes, heart disease, but suicide is silenced. People are scared that if you talk about it, you are going to put the idea in someone’s head. That’s not true. There is a gentle way to talk with our youth about suicide without sweeping it under the rug.
My support group taught me that sometimes the people you thought would be there for you, aren’t..
but look for the special people, who you never expected, that will come into your life.
Thank you to my family, friends, and the unexpected who have stayed by my side through this journey.
To my art students and my nieces & nephews; Luke, Sam, Mercedes, Eliana, Alejandro, & Vicente
This is all for you..