May 24, 2024
News - Joliet and Will County

Help keep someone else's light on

Minooka woman hosting Zumba event in Joliet to raise money for suicide awareness

Dejirolami's friend Kathi Myers and Kathi's husband Brandon founded the Samuel R. Myers Foundation for Suicide and Mental Health Awareness after their 19-year-old son committed suicide in 2017.

The foundation's purpose, according to its website, is to train teachers and those in law enforcement to differentiate between "bad behavior" and mental illness and to recognize when someone needs help.
Dejirolami's friend Kathi Myers and Kathi's husband Brandon founded the Samuel R. Myers Foundation for Suicide and Mental Health Awareness after their 19-year-old son committed suicide in 2017.

The foundation's purpose, according to its website, is to train teachers and those in law enforcement to differentiate between "bad behavior" and mental illness and to recognize when someone needs help.
Pictured is the Myers family: Damon (brother, 25), Sam (19) , Kathi (Mom), Liberty (sister, 10), 
Brandon (Dad).
Kathi, of Manteno, said she's talked various groups, including high school groups and church youth groups.

"The Illinois State Police put on a camp for at-risk kids every summer for kids as youth as fifth grade," Kathi said. "We just tell Sam's story and tell about mental health issues and what that means and where to turn if you need help or someone to confide in."
Kathi said she noticed signs disquieting signs when Sam was in the eighth grade, although Sam later said symptoms began in the second grade: silent counting when Sam bumped into an object, shuffling his feet when passing through a doorway, repeatedly turning a light switch off and on and off.
He abruptly quit the football team during his sophomore year of high school. He loved football, but the number four and patterns of four consumed him. And football is played in increments of five, Kathi said.
"He had OCD with intrusive thoughts," Kathi said. "He would say, 'It has to be right' and he had to do it in a certain way. Otherwise it wasn't right. It caused a lot of anxiety in him and it just built and built until he fixed it or blew up. It was really hard. "

Sam was diagnosed with three disorders: obsessive-compulsive, anxiety and bipolar. Doctors never found a medicines that helped Sam so he eventually began self-medicating with marijuana, which Sam said, "calmed his mind down,"  Kathi said.
"We had looked into medical marijuana for him," Kathi said. "But every doctor told us they did not believe it was a good idea because his brain was not fully developed. My husband is in law enforcement and my daughter is adopted, and he was bringing drugs into the house. We had to say, 'You can't do that or you can live elsewhere.' He came home one day and moved out."

Friends and relatives opened up their homes to Sam, Kathi said. That summer, Sam was caught breaking into cars and stealing change. He was fortunate: a $1,000 and court supervision, Kathi said.
For awhile, Sam's future appeared brighter. He moved back home. He had a job. He was college-bound. Then his car broke down, and he used up his money to buy another. Then that car broke down and he lost his job, Kathi said.
She recalled the last conversation with Sam, where he told her, "I don't know if I can live this way forever." Kathi said they talked for four hours. When they were done, Sam said, "I feel better, Mom. I'm glad I have you and Dad for support."

Kathi said Sam left the house with a friend. Two hours later, the police arrived.

"They said Sam had stolen some marijuana for this kid and that Sam had a gun," Kathi said.
She felt stunned.

"Even though my son had a mental health issue, he was a kind person," Kathi said.
Kathi searched his room and found seven suicide notes. And a gun was missing from her husband's safe. For three days, she searched for Sam.
"On Tuesday Dec. 13, my husband and I found him under a bridge in Manteno," Kathi said.

On some level, Kathi gets it.

"I understand why my son chose suicide," Kathi said. "He felt his brain was strangling him. I just wish we could have helped him."

Who was Sam?
"He was the light of the room," Kathi said. "He had the most awesome personality. He loved to make people smile and laugh. He had a huge heart. He was good-looking and had many friends. He had a 120 IQ. From the outside, he had everything good going for him. But he had that demon inside that was mental health [disorder] and he just could not beat it. But he was truly the light of the room. He really was."
WHAT: 2nd Annual Zumbathon for Suicide Awareness

WHEN: 1:30 to 5 p.m. May 19

WHERE: Body Tech Total Fitness, 3585 Hennepin Drive, Joliet

TICKETS: $20 at the door or via PayPal to bmyers@sammyersfoundation.com. Donate at bit.ly/2Fe0RYx

ETC: Proceeds benefit Samuel R. Myers Foundation for Suicide and Mental Health Awareness.

INFORMATION: Visit sammyersfoundation.com.
Denise  Unland

Denise M. Baran-Unland

Denise M. Baran-Unland is the features editor for The Herald-News in Joliet. She covers a variety of human interest stories. She also writes the long-time weekly tribute feature “An Extraordinary Life about local people who have died. She studied journalism at the College of St. Francis in Joliet, now the University of St. Francis.