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Parents hoping to eliminate stigma of depression after Marquette University High School senior takes own life

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A Marquette University High School senior took his own life over the weekend.

Jack Kujawa’s parents, Patty and Joe, say Jack had previously attempted suicide three times before this final time.

They spoke to CBS 58 to hopefully make a difference in eliminating the stigma of depression, and help families struggling with it.

The Kujawa's knew for years Jack battled the disease.

Recently, he admitted to them he had suicidal thoughts every day.

Patty Kujawa said hearing that from your child puts a hole in your soul.

"It was incredibly terrifying because we had thought he was doing so much better, getting so much better, and he was," Joe Kujawa said.

Patty describes depression as starting a race a mile behind everyone else.

“It's very difficult for people to understand that,” she said.

Before he died, Jack was working with the National Alliance for Mental Illness.

He wanted to share his experience with others going through something similar.

"I encourage parents and I encourage people who are feeling this depth of sorrow and this pain that they shouldn't be ashamed of it,” Patty said. “The key is to get the help that you need."

As important as communication is, experts acknowledge how hard it can be for parents to talk to their teenagers.

Leah Rolando, a suicide prevention specialist with Mental Health America of Wisconsin, says it can help to start conversations about mental health young, to normalize the topic.

"Asking the child more questions about how they're doing and noticing those warning signs,” Rolando said. “If they're withdrawing, if there are drastic changes in social interaction at school or home, if they're feeling like a burden."

Patty Kujawa says at first she and her husband were lost, unsure how to talk about the subject with Jack.

They say he told his friends before them, which was fine, because they were good enough friends to get him help.

A Suicide Prevention Specialist with Mental Health of America WI gives these 5 steps to help someone who may be struggling with suicide:

1.) Ask directly: are you thinking about suicide?
2.) Keep them safe. Ask about actual plan, means, and timeframe.
3.) Be there. Listen. Stay out of judgment.
4.) Help connect to resources.
5.) Follow up.

Immediate Resources:
Call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or visit the website for information: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Crisis Text Line: Text HOPELINE to 741741
Call TrevorLifeline (LGBTQ+) at 1-866-488-7386, text “Trevor” to 1-202-304-1200 or visit the website: https://www.thetrevorproject.org/
Prevent Suicide Greater Milwaukee https://www.preventsuicidemke.com/
Prevent Suicide Wisconsin https://www.preventsuicidewi.org/
Website for people who live with chronic suicidal thoughts, Now Matters Now https://www.nowmattersnow.org/
School Suicide Prevention Resources in Wisconsin: https://dpi.wi.gov/sspw/mental-health/youth-suicide-prevention




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