Grieving, mothers strive to educate about suicide prevention



Sandra Ramirez and Carolyn Gomez live with tough questions – a myriad of them, asked from different angles and with hindsight.

The two Pasadena women present themselves as “suicide moms” – bound by the tragedy of losing young adult children to suicide.

“There are always ifs and maybe’s,” said Ramirez, 51.

Suicide, she says, “leaves a lot of questions and guilt as a mother. If I had known or had the education… it could have been different.

Ramirez’s son, Tory, was 16 when he committed suicide in 2009. His eldest son, Paul, was 17 when his brother died and was among the family members present when his body was discovered. Overwhelmed by grief and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, Paul committed suicide four years later.

“Personally, I feel like I asked more questions…. or realized that not everyone who smiles is OK, ”Ramirez said.

Gomez’s daughter, Selena Cassandra Patina, committed suicide just after Christmas in 2014, when she was 18.

What:Community exit out of darkness

When and where: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. September 25 at Burke Crenshaw Park, 4950 Burke Road, Pasadena, TX.

Registration: 8:30

Information, registration and donation:

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website:

Need help?: If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Lifeline 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255; contact the Crisis Text Line by calling TALK on 741741; or chat with someone online at

“She had just graduated from high school and was already enrolled in college,” said Gomez, 51. “I never thought (his depression) was at this point and only found out after the fact that the signs I had to see that I couldn’t see were right in the face.

Part of the survivors’ healing process has been making connections with other families, and the two are now meeting with groups to help raise awareness about suicide prevention.

As part of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), a group she joined to deal with her grief, Ramirez hosted an event on September 25 at the Crenshaw Park Pavilion in Pasadena to educate families about the suicide prevention and providing information. how and where to seek help.

Gomez is on Ramirez’s Walking Events Committee and has been at similar events in Houston for a few years.

Ramirez and Gomez believe part of their own recovery is helping others.

“I became a ‘suicide mom’ – and talking to Sandra brought me a little more peace,” Gomez said. “Now people come to me after losing a loved one to suicide. “

Ramirez and Gomez are on a mission to erase the stigma associated with mental health issues among young people.

The Out of the Darkness Community Walk is a first for Pasadena, but it is part of a larger national effort by AFSP to support programs and fund resources.

The money raised through the Out of the Darkness marches allows the foundation to fund educational programs and work to advocate and support those affected by suicide.

“We want to educate the community about the need to get help before it turns into suicide,” Ramirez said. “We also want to break down that barrier of stigma that exists so that families get the help their children need.”

Ramirez, who is a paraprofessional at Pasadena ISD and a member of the District Behavior Intervention Team, has participated in awareness walks in the Woodlands and recognized a need in his own community.

“The Woodlands are a real challenge for a lot of us on this side of town,” she said. “I saw the need for resources available to parents, and I have often seen children who have attempted suicide and are out of school for a while because they have been hospitalized and we are working with them on their return.

For several years, Ramirez traveled to Washington, DC, to meet with senators to lobby for legislation for resources and programs to educate the public about mental health and suicide prevention.

According to statistics from the AFSP, one person commits suicide every two hours in Texas, and a recent study by JAMA Pediatrics found that depression and anxiety in young adults increased dramatically during the pandemic. Isolation, disruption of social interactions and routine were cited as contributing factors.

At Pasadena ISD, the district provides training that covers suicide prevention, trauma, response and mental health interventions, said Raymona Harold, council coordinator at the district’s College and Career Readiness Center.

“Pasadena ISD works to remove the stigma or barriers when it comes to mental health care in a number of ways,” said Harold.

The need for awareness is more relevant than ever, Ramirez said.

“There’s a difference between being able to talk about a loss and a death when there’s a mental health issue behind it,” she says. “It is a subject that has always been stigmatized and shamed. It’s hard when they don’t talk about it. Our goal is to disseminate information to families. Many of our families do not know the resources or cannot afford therapy. Part of my job (with the Behavior Intervention Team) is talking to families when we see a troubled child.

Ramirez and Gomez both had close relationships with their children and were attentive, and that, Gomez said, still makes their loss unfathomable.

Gomez had spoken to his daughter just five hours before she received the phone call of her early morning death.

“I didn’t want to believe it. There was no way… there was no way she could have done this, ”Gomez said.

Her daughter had left the family home three months earlier.

Gomez’s daughter had faced episodes of depression before, but appeared to be doing well and seemed excited about going to college, her mother said.

“We were very close and talked about everything, and that’s why it completely bowled me over,” she said.

After the death of her youngest son, Ramirez believed that she had taken the necessary steps to help her eldest child. But she feels like he’s struggled among his peers with the stigma of needing help.

She had sought therapy for him and communicated openly, but it was not enough, she said.

“Paul had gone back to school and seemed to be doing better, but he had also stopped receiving therapy,” she said. “The stigma got the better of him.”

The AFSP works with families to understand the signs, to know when the depressive episodes are more than a teenage phase.

“Right before that happened my daughter was coming and I could see she was going through a rough time,” Gomez said. “I would ask her, and she would say ‘Nothing, mum, nothing’ – and I was trying to dig a little deeper and she was like, ‘It’s going to be fine’ – those were her words.”

Ramirez said she couldn’t determine when her sons thought they had no other choice, and she still wonders if there was anything she could have seen or recognized.

Questions never end, she said.

“It’s all the whys that you’ll never get all the answers to,” Gomez said. “It eats away at us.”

During the Pasadena Walk, several hundred blue wooden hearts will be placed in the pavilion at Crenshaw Park, each representing a loved one who died by suicide. Participants will once walk around the park pond in remembrance.

Bringing together survivors is part of the healing and education process, Ramirez said.

“It might be too late for us, but I have to tell myself that what I do is making a difference,” she said. “It helps me to be there for others.”

This process, Gomez said, is also painful.

“I relive it with advocacy, but if we don’t tell our stories…” she said.

“The emotion is still there and it’s getting raw again,” Gomez said. “We need to get the information out so people can get the help they need to help their child. “

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