As told by her mother Lisa Jones Barry
Hannah struggled with anxiety and depression a lot growing up. She had two prior attempts, about a year apart. One of them was six months before she took her life, and the other was a year before that. They all seemed to center around relationships most of the time. She had been in a long term relationship for seven years. So from high school on. They were engaged and broke-up, and that kind of is when it started spiraling. That was when her first attempt was, right after.
Her father, my ex-husband, he and his family struggle with some mental health issues and some addiction issues, which I think all go hand in hand.
Hannah’s older brother is in active recovery now. He’d been in recovery for five years. Then, after she passed away, he slipped back into getting into some bad habits. He’s been 75 days clean now. So we’re getting there. It doesn’t take much to slip up when you’re in recovery. He struggled with that. But he’s clean now, we’re on the other side. I’m feeling a lot better than I was, say three months ago.
She made an attempt in 2019, in February, and just about the same time in 2020. November 11 of 2020, is when she took her life. The first two times, she tried taking too many pills. She overdosed on her prescriptions. The last time it was a gunshot. She was 25.
It was still around a relationship. She was asking this person to, for them to go their separate ways for a while. So it was like she was driving the bus on this one where the other two had been done to her.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 42% of all suicides are related to relationship problems.
My brother witnessed it. She had driven up past my niece’s house into a gravel pit that is family-owned, My niece didn’t know it was her when she called my brother to go see who had gone up to the gravel pit. And he went up there and he tried talking to her. I feel unfortunate that he had to witness it, but it makes it a little clearer about those last few minutes. He said she didn’t look like her, didn’t sound like her, didn’t act like her. It was like, she was totally not herself. It was not the Hannah, he knew. So I really do believe that the mental health played into it, that something just kind of kind of went boom and she just was out of it. It was out of her control.
I went to medium after a few weeks after. A friend of mine had actually asked me if I wanted to go. I wasn’t going to and then I did go and what she what came back to me from the medium was that she was outside her body, watching herself take her life. And that after she did, she said, oh shit, what have I done now? Which is exactly what she would have said. So, I mean, it gives me some solace in that, in what my brother saw.
I mean, it just makes so much sense because she wouldn’t have done this. She wouldn’t have done it to me. We were very close. So I know she wouldn’t do this. That’s one thing that I know, and all of our kids and friends, too. That’s one thing we can all agree on is that it was not the Hannah we knew.
IMPACT OF COVID
I do not at all say she died as the result of COVID, but it certainly had an impact. She was very social. She liked to go out with her friends. And that certainly was changed once COVID hit so it did have an impact. It’s not because of COVID. But it was it played into it as well.
The pandemic affected so many people. As an educator in a school, I have a whole new understanding of trauma. I mean, we used to have, we have trauma training, and, and I have a whole new appreciation for what some of these kids are going through. And it’s too bad that I had to have that to, to truthfully feel like I understood it better, but it’s definitely has changed in mental health. Like they go hand in hand, and I’ve tried to be a positive factor in pushing for mental health in and not being a stigma.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns about mental health and substance use have grown, including concerns about suicidal ideation. In January 2021, 41% of adults reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder…. In a survey from June 2020, 13% of adults reported new or increased substance use due to coronavirus-related stress, and 11% of adults reported thoughts of suicideKaiser Family Foundation
HER FIRST ATTEMPT
She had this group of friends, they hung out and there was some drama there with the fiancé she’d had for seven years. Three couples, them being one of the couples, and then her friends Heather Erin, Mark the other couple and Kaylee and her husband at the time. When they broke up, when she and her fiancé broke up, what happened was her boyfriend went and hooked up with Kaylee. So that kind of shifted the whole dynamic.
That made for a really tough time for her because that was her network of friends. They all hung out together. They got tattoos together. They hey got their noses pierced. I mean, there were all those events they did together as the girls. They would hang out and drinking and just having fun on the weekend, going riding on the side by side and things like that. So that was when her first attempt was, when she and her fiancé broke up.
And I think it went downhill from there. She never could seem to get established with another social group, and she felt like the outsider with that one, even though Heather, who she was closest to, she and Heather kept saying we’re still good friends, but it just wasn’t the same. She wasn’t comfortable hanging out with all of them.
A prior history of suicide attempt is considered one of the most robust predictors of eventually completed suicide. One widely cited meta-analysis shows that 8.6% of individuals admitted to a psychiatric unit with suicidal ideation or after a suicide attempt will eventually die by suicide.The American Journal of Psychiatry
When she died it was in the middle of COVID and we were trying to figure out some kind of a memorial service for her. At the time, my brothers were transitioning from dairy farming to goat farming. The barn was empty. Our governor had said you can have groups of people, but they had to be spread out. She liked to spend time at camp bonfire. So we were going to do some bonfires, and we were going to be selective, hold it to 100 people that could come and, and then the day that we were planning all this, the governor came on and said no more than 10 people can be in a gathering. So then we kind of had switch gears.
One of my brothers had this idea. He says, “Well, let’s do a Memorial Drive.” So we did a memorial drive at my brother’s farm. There’s a road that goes down around the back of the barn. We put up pictures we had banners. We had people bring pictures to put up. We had lots of bubbles, conversation bubbles with words that kind of described her hung them all up around the barn, we had a bonfire going where we were at the end of it. We were very lucky that we were able to do this because I think that helped everybody get closure. We had over 200 cars come through. And we think we had roughly over 400 people in those in those cars.
As a parent, it was so much easier to do that kind of send-off for her than to have everybody coming to the funeral home and have that closer contact. People didn’t get out from their cars. She had co-worker, she had kids she had babies. She had four in her car. It was really special, and people have said that was like the best memorial service that they have ever attended. That to me was so hard. So many parts of it spoke of her, spoke of what she was like. She would have approved, as everybody said.
WHAT WOULD HANNAH DO?
Her birthday in May, and then her anniversary of her death is in November. So I do a fundraiser on both of those days and money goes to different organizations. I have an issue saying suicide prevention awareness, because I don’t feel I could have prevented this. You know, there is nothing that I could have done to prevent it. So I’ve kind of changed my focus to mental health and erasing the stigma of talking about mental health, and just trying to be a positive influence for others who are struggling.
We’ve done NAMI, which is the National Association of mental illness. They’ve gotten some money. I did do suicide prevention; I think one of the first events we did. We’re doing another fundraiser in November; we’re just getting ready to plan it. And I think we’re going to set up this one is going to be any money raised is going to be held in an account and people that work in daycares that need to take additional training and so forth, they’ll be able to access that to help out with the cost of some of those trainings.
We’re kind of changing it up a little bit as we go along. And kind of spreading out to different groups of people and things that were important to her. And I foresee doing that. I’d love to stay we’re going to do it forever, but I’m sure it won’t be forever. Right now though that that feels like the right thing to because she would have done it. We’ve also started a Facebook group, What Would Hannah Do (WWHD) because she would always almost to a fault buy things and do things for other people. And her credit card showed it. We kind of, our slogan is pass on the kindness, because she was always looking out for others. So that is kind of our mantra about her.