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'Before I got home, she was already gone': A mother's mission to raise awareness of teenage suicide
THE WOODLANDS, Texas -- Kim Hess experienced the most devastating moment of her life when she arrived home Dec. 20, 2015.
Her 16-year-old daughter, Cassidy, had committed suicide. "We believe she didn't mean to do it," Kim said.
Cassidy was in her junior year at The Woodlands College Park High School, where she was a varsity cheerleader and lived a life full of family, fun and friends. Cassidy was going through typical teenage stress as final exams were underway, Kim said, but it seems something happened that pushed her over the edge.
"She was sad that day. Her friends noticed something was wrong, and asked her what was wrong, and told her that she just wasn't being herself," Kim said. "They were pulling her aside and trying to talk to her. By the end of the day, she was crying."
"Before I got home, she was already gone."
Kim said her daughter's death is why teen suicide is often called a "silent epidemic." "We need to bridge that gap in getting kids to talk, or their friends to talk if they notice something unusual," Kim said. "Be each others eyes and ears. Speak up if you see something."
Kim said the shame or stigma attached to suicide is what sometimes leads to a roadblock when it comes to discussion. That's why the family's foundation, Cassidy Joined for Hope, strives to shed light on something often hidden in the dark.
On Sept. 29, Oak Ridge High School and Conroe High School will support National Suicide Prevention Month by wearing purple to the game at Moorhead Stadium to raise awareness of suicide prevention. Counselors, Joined for Hope club sponsors and the Cassidy Joined for Hope Foundation board founders will be introduced before the game.
On Oct. 7, The Cassidy Joined for Hope Foundation will be the first nonprofit organization to be awarded a 2017 Hometown Hero Award from Interfaith of The Woodlands.
On Nov. 18, the New Caney High School DECA is hosting a Mother-Daughter Tea to benefit the Cassidy Joined for Hope Foundation.
Also in November, Mercedes Benz of The Woodlands will host a "Reveal" of the Cassidy Joined for Hope Foundation.
And on Feb. 17, 2018, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention will host the Greater Houston Area "Out of the Darkness" walk at The Woodlands Town Center. Kim will be the keynote speaker.
"Cassidy would be the biggest cheerleader of all of this," Hess said. "I just know she would.
"We put our family's story out there because we want everyone to know that if it can happen to us, it can happen to them. We can't sit back and let this happen to another family."