“At the age of 15, I ended up in my first psychiatric hospital,” said Geri Genovese. “I strugggled with severe depression and I started to use alcohol to self-medicate. I attemped suicide several times during my adolscence and young adulthood. My whole growing up was in and out of 11 hospitals.”
“Everybody who knew me thought I was the happiest person,” she recalled. “Nobody would know that I was going through depression myself. That’s the sick part about the illness. It can be so secretive.”
Geri struggled with severe depression and alcoholism throughout her early adulthood, entering several rehab programs and hospitals before she got sober at age 21. With her history, Geri said she knew there was a very high chance her children might develop mental health or addiction issues.
Her oldest son, Christian, was 15 when he was first hospitalized for depression.
“He was exhibiting every sign under the sun that he was struggling with depression,” she recalled. “He was crying. It was visible that he was suffering.”
“Christian woke me up in the middle of the night and said he kept having these terrible thoughts of wanting to kill himself,” said Geri, who immediately drove him to Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care.
Her daughter, Bianca, began grappling with anxiety issues at 15, but her youngest child, Sean, seemed to be doing well.
“We thought everything was ok with him. He was the complete opposite of the key warning signs of suicide,” she said. “Everyone described Sean as ‘Mister Happy Go Lucky.’”
When the school called one day to say Sean, who had just turned 15, had mentioned wanting to take his life following a personal issue, Geri immediately took him to a therapist. The therapist told her Sean seemed to be coping well.
“Sean was laughing at me like I was overreacting. His words that day were, ‘Mom I promise you, if I have any bad thoughts you will be the first person I come to,’”she recalled.
Just five weeks later, Sean died by suicide.
“Like any mother who loses a child it is absolutely devastaing,” she said. “There is a guilt that runs so deep of how did I not see this coming, especially as I’ve lived it. There are no words for the pain.”
With reasurrances from the therapist and her own son, who was acting normally even on the day of his suicide, there was no indication of anything wrong.
“Sean was on the computer ordering new clothes. We had just bought his winter coat and he aked if he could buy it a size bigger because he loved it so much,” she said.
The day Sean died by suicide, he was still handing in homework. Later that day, he was celebrating his brother’s birthday with family.