Teen Suicide: Hidden Pain, Tragic Action Part 3

Sydney Sanders
Sydney Sanders

RICHMOND HILL, GA (WTOC) - Imagine coming home from work, greeting the dog, and walking upstairs to find your son or daughter dead by their own hands.

The suicide of a child is a very sensitive and sometimes divisive subject for families.

But suicide is a growing concern.

Adults, it's fair to say, know what the consequences are.

A teenager might not. They are not as mature and are more impulsive. They may not realize the scope or full impact of their tragic actions.

Suicide leaves a wake of victims.

Three weeks ago, 14-year-old Sydney Sanders killed herself. Her mother found her.

For Sydney's mom and sister, the range of emotions is raw. They can't bare to even go back to their home.

They shared their story for the first time with WTOC so other families can avoid the pain they are experiencing.

"It hurts and it's hard. But I was blessed to have her in my life for 14 years. And she would say to me mama, 'suck it up,'" Laura Lane said.

Sucking it up isn't so easy for a grieving mom.

Lane said she called her and talked to her on the phone.

"'I love you mama. I promise you I am gonna be alright. I am gonna read my Bible. I love you and I will see you when you get home,'" Lane recalled her daughter telling her.

Those were Sydney's last words to her mother.

Lane discovered Sydney dead in her bedroom. It was a scene which forced her to abandon her home, the culmination of a family crisis which started three months ago.

"There were no signs. None. Never. Not even for the first attempt. None," she said.

The first attempt became Lane's red flag. It was Valentine's Day morning. Sydney's 17-year-old sister Caleigh walked in on her younger sister.

"I tried to open her door and it was locked. She never locks her doors and it scared me," Caleigh said. "I went through the bathroom. She had band-aids all over her. She took her bands aids off and showed me the holes," Caleigh said. "She had all cuts all over neck. Marks all over, and I was scared."

Caleigh said she yelled at her sister. "[I] told her she was crazy. 'What did you do to yourself?' She just sat there just as calm as she could be and said she didn't know what happened,'" Caleigh recalled.

Sydney's family took her to the hospital, where the truth was revealed. She came home 10 days later.

"She had gotten into some medication," Lane said. "She tried to cut her throat many times and had stabbed herself in areas of her body."

"They told me she did it to herself. I broke down. I was devastated," Caleigh said. "Something was wrong. You don't just wake up out of the blue and do that. Something was going on."

"She never spoke about it again. Didn't discuss it again. She told her close friends about it and never talked about it again," Lane said.

"She told me some things she didn't want mom to know and she looked me straight in the face and said, I love you and always will but I didn't want to wake up the next morning. I was praying to God I would be gone before you all woke up," Caleigh said.

Lane took Sydney to counseling.

She said that Sydney was mad and that she made her go back. "After she talked to the counselor, she said thank you, it's nice to have someone I can speak to. To just talk," Lane said.

"I had doctors tell me she would never do it again. I had therapists tell me she would never do it again," Lane told WTOC.

Her sister wasn't so sure and left home.

"I just had to get out of there. I didn't want to wake up and have my sister be gone and me see it. I don't know what would have happened to me if I saw that," Caleigh said. "I was scared she would hurt me or my mom or she would do it again. I told her that over and over again and no one listened to me."

On April 5, Lane found Sydney. She hanged herself from the attic in her bedroom.

"Just devastation," Lane said. "Even if I got there immediately I have been told I would not be able to save my daughter's life."

"I was more angry at the time when I found out than I was hurt because running through my mind I knew my mom was going to be the first person to find her," Caleigh said. "I just didn't know how she could do this to my mom at all."

The pain and confusion lead to the question everyone is still asking. Why? 14 years-old. Beautiful. Athletic. Popular.

"She had everything going for her. From my eyes she did," Caleigh said.

The answer, however, is not black and white.

"She did not have any symptoms of anything. She was not clinically depressed. No medications. No drugs. She was a typical teenager.," Lane said. "In the beginning she was isolated a little bit and things had been going on and circumstances. She told me everything and got through it."

"There's only two people who know and that's God and her," Lane said.

"She obviously didn't want anyone to know and kept it to herself," Caleigh said. "It hurts losing someone you love. I don't want anyone to go through that at all."

Lane says finding the reason why is not going to fix what happened to her daughter, or explain her daughters actions. "If we can use her life as an example to fix the ones who are still here, in my daughter's death I hope and pray there will be many changes and there will be lives saved and something wonderful will come out of something so tragic."

Lane is working on a non-profit foundation, called  Forever 4 Change, to promote suicide awareness and counseling in Richmond Hill.

The bottom line: know your children, get them to talk and get help. It does get better.

If you think about suicide, or suspect someone you know or love is depressed and contemplating suicide, there is help. Immediately consult a physician. There are also suicide help lines, with 24 hour service. Those numbers are 1-800.999.9999,  1.800.273.8255 and 1.800.273.HELP.

For more information, go to www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

The Sanders family has set up a foundation in Sydney's memory, and are raising money to build and promote a teen suicide help center in Richmond Hill. Donations can be made to the Sydney Sanders Memorial Fund.

On Thursday night, from 5 to 10 p.m., Love's Seafood will be holding a special Thursday evening sunset. They will be donating a portion of their proceeds to the fund, as well as accepting donations.

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