Out of the darkness | SierraSun.com

Out of the darkness

Ryan Salm/Sierra SunRosie Mann sits surrounded by photos of her son, Mike, who committed suicide nine months ago.

Michael and Margie Mann returned from a three-week trip to the Greek Isles in early October of 2005. The couple was living in their new Carson City home, and Mike, a former Truckee resident, had just received a promotion from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation where he worked as a hydrologist.

From the outside they appeared the ideal couple. Mike was athletic. Margie was in love.

Ten days later, Michael Patrick Mann drove his Ford pick-up truck into the wilderness and shot himself.

Suicide claims the lives of nearly 30,000 people annually, making it the 11th leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But suicide is not a silent epidemic, and mental health professionals are adamant that in nearly every case there are plenty of warning signs. Knowing those signs, experts say, can literally mean the difference between life and death.

“I look back and I see certain signs: Mike was a loner and got upset very easily. He could handle absolutely no stress. He was a little paranoid,” says Rosie Mann, Mike’s mother. “But I didn’t see it then, and I didn’t want to be a meddling mother.”

Now that the Mann family has had time to adjust to the shock and assess their loss, Rosie Mann says she can see things a bit more clearly.

“Hindsight is 20-20,” she says. “I would have pushed harder to say ‘Look, you need some help. Let’s get you some counseling.'”

But Mike didn’t seek a healthy method of release, and finally his inner demons became too much to bear.

Before his death in October, Mike wrote a letter to his wife and parents. The suicide note, said Rosie Mann, expressed that Mike had felt himself a failure and had done his best to hide his problems.

“I love all of you very much, and I want you to all have a good life and for you to forget about me,” the note read. “I don’t want anybody to find me because I am so worthless.”

It took four days of searching before Mike’s body was recovered by a friend.

“There are days that I am mad at him because of what he has done to this family,” his mother says. “I look at myself and I have a totally different outlook. It really took the wind out of my sails. I keep busier now than I ever have before so I don’t have to think about it.”

In the wake of her son’s death, Mann has become a champion for suicide awareness and prevention, raising thousands of dollars for the cause. This weekend she will walk 20 miles through the night for “Out of the Darkness,” an event that benefits the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to fund research, education and survivor and awareness programs.

With just three days to go, Mann is currently this year’s second-highest fundraiser, having gathered more than $17,500, and has been invited to speak at the event’s closing ceremony.

“So much of it has come from people I have never heard of,” says Mann, whose donations included a check for $7,500 from an anonymous woman whose fiance committed suicide right in front of her.

“Just to talk about depression and mental illnesses is what we need to do,” Mann says. “I cannot be mad at Mike any longer for wanting to escape the pain, but I cannot accept it. I don’t ever want another family to go through this.”

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