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Nearly 40 years after her brother’s death, sister focuses on suicide prevention

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This story is part of Lifelines, a Rocky Mountain PBS project focused on youth suicide prevention. This is one segment in a series of stories focused on how communities have responded after experiencing high rates of youth suicide. Find the full Learning Through Loss story here.

PREVIOUS SEGMENT:Securing weapons, medications can save lives during a crisis

If you have an immediate mental health crisis, please call Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-8255 or text TALK to 38255. Or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also chat with the Lifeline.

Insight with John Ferrugia

Sister describes the lifelong impact of her brother's death

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Nearly 40 years after her brother's death, a sister works to prevent youth suicide.

Clusters of youth suicides have been in the headlines for decades. Records obtained by RMPBS show the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, has conducted epidemiological investigations of at least 13 clusters of adolescent suicide deaths and/or attempts in 12 states dating back to the early 1980s.

It was around that time that a documentary crew came to Chryss Cada’s home in Loveland, Colorado, because young people in that community were dying.

Chryss was just 12 years old when her 15-year-old brother Mark took his own life at the home where their parents still live, in the hills of Larimer County.

Looking back, she doesn’t recall specific signs that her brother was suicidal. She remembers he experienced bullying and argued with his parents about a bad report card shortly before his death.

“At that age you can't see the future. It's just, ‘Right now, this is so bad,’” Cada said.

Chryss said the pain of losing Mark is still intense, almost 40 years after his death.

"I know if my brother could see what happened to me after he died, he never would have done what he did,” Cada said.

Resources: I’ve Lost Someone: Resources for suicide loss survivors

Resources: The Dougy Center - support for grieving children and families

Chryss Cada now teaches journalism at Colorado State University. She has written a book about her brother’s death, and applies what she has learned about suicide prevention in the classroom with her students.

“I make a point of reaching out to them and just being like, ‘Wow, what's that like for you? What's going on with you?’” she said. “Once you just invest some time, I feel like they embrace that.”

When Cada spends time on the hillside at her parents’ home where she and her brother played as kids, where her brother died, she says she feels she can hear his voice and talk with him. She has a piece of advice for those who hear her story:

“If you have a brother or sister, tell them you love them.”

If you have an immediate mental health crisis, please call Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-8255 or text TALK to 38255. Or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also chat with the Lifeline.

NEXT SEGMENT: Two communities reflect on lessons learned from youth suicide clusters