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“I need to be her voice now:” Milwaukee family shares heartache of teenage daughter’s suicide

If you need help you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, it’s free and confidential.

CBS 58— The popular Netflix series, “13 Reasons Why” is starting a conversation about teen suicide, and one Milwaukee family knows the subject matter all too well.

Teen suicides continue to rise each year both nationally and in Wisconsin. It is the second leading cause of death among people 15-24 according to the Centers for Disease Control.

David and Marissa Seegert’s daughter, Victoria Bigelow, became a part of that statistic this year.

“There are days I still kind of hope and dream she’s gonna walk through the door,” Marissa said. “I think about her every day.”

It’s been three months since 16-year-old Victoria hung herself in her family’s apartment while babysitting her 7 and 8-year-old brothers.

“He [the 7-year-old] called 911 and said, ‘my sister killed herself.’”

Victoria didn’t leave a note, but her parents say she struggled with depression and recently she was bullied.

“I would say probably 85 percent bullying, 15 percent depression,” David said.

Still, the Seegerts say they didn’t see signs that day. February 2 started out like any other Thursday.

“She’s [Victoria] braiding my hair, her 17th birthday was 42 days away, just kind of expressing, ‘this is what I’d like to do,’” Marissa recalls.

Just weeks after Victoria died, Netflix released the series “13 Reasons Why” a story about a teen that commits suicide. The Seegerts decided to watch.

“I think it was good that it was made,” David said. “I think it definitely brings awareness to teen suicide.”

Dr. Himanshu Agrawal, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at Medical College of Wisconsin, says there is always the risk a series like this could trigger copycat suicides but he says there is value in the message.

“What it really does well is bring to attention things that are going on,” Dr. Agrawal said. “Things that we really don’t necessarily want to talk about.”

The bottom line Dr. Agrawal says is parents should talk to their kids, not just about the Netflix series, but about what’s going on in their lives.

“They’ve [teenagers] got stories to tell,” Dr. Agrawal said. “If you take teenagers with a pint of seriousness, they will do anything for you, they will open up.”

As for the Seegerts, they’re sharing Victoria’s story in hopes of saving someone else from the pain.

“I strongly believe that I failed her in life,” Marissa said. “So now I need to be her voice now.”

One day, the Seegerts would like to speak at area high schools about depression and bullying.

“Just because somebody doesn’t bleed, or cry doesn’t mean they don’t hurt,” David said.

And its Victoria words, from a poem she wrote in school this year, that the Seegerts say is the foundation for their message.

Part of the poem reads, “Oh I have a dream. That people will find who they are. That people will learn everyone is different and unique.”

And that dream Victoria’s parents will keep alive, in her memory.

“I love her and I miss her,” Marissa said. “And I would do anything even for five more minutes.”

There is a GoFundMe to help the Seegerts have Victoria’s ashes interred. You can donate here https://www.gofundme.com/3qlj020

There are several resources if you or someone you know needs help.

You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, it’s free and confidential.

You can find help online here https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/

For information about teen suicide and depression, as well as resources, click here http://www.chw.org/medical-care/psychiatry-and-behavioral-medicine/conditions/teen-suicide/

And for ways to talk to your teen about “13 Reasons Why” click here https://www.jedfoundation.org/13-reasons-why-talking-points/

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