Emma Jane von Euler | Suicide


Emma Jane von Euler (Photo courtesy of Nancy von Euler)

On June 17, 2009 my precious daughter, Emma Jane, passed away, five days before her 17th birthday. Emma was beautiful, bright, and articulate, with an effervescent personality. She was a talented musician who shared her musical gifts generously and participated in every musical ensemble she could fit into her schedule. She was a caring daughter, sister, and friend and a bright light in the lives of many, many people.

Emma took her own life.

When Emma killed herself she created a tsunami of destruction that swept up family, friends, teachers, ministers, mentors and neighbors. All of us struggled against the current of guilt, pain, shock and bewilderment. For her immediate family: her father, sister and me, life as we knew it ended.

I’m not sure we will ever fully understand why Emma ended her life; what caused what must have been an incredibly deep sense of despair and hopelessness; or why she couldn’t reach out to us or to the many other caring adults and professionals she had in her life. Nonetheless, in the days, weeks and months after Emma’s death I turned to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) to learn more about suicide and to search for clues that would help explain why my beautiful, bright, talented daughter was gone from our lives.


Emma Jane von Euler (Photo courtesy of Nancy von Euler)

The facts that I discovered about suicide shocked and alarmed me. Suicide claims close to 39,000 lives in the United States, which is nearly as many as breast cancer and more than twice as many as HIV/AIDS. According to the CDC, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death across all ages and the second leading cause of death for children ages 12-17. It is the only one of the ten leading causes of death that has not seen a decline or leveling off in the number of deaths each year. And the fact that is often missing from the debate on gun control is that 60% of deaths by firearms are suicides.

With statistics like those, how is it that no one; not our schools, not our pediatrician, not even Emma’s therapist of three years, had talked to us about suicide and alerted us to the warning signs? If my husband and I knew the warning signs, would we have been able to get her the right help? My daughter’s pediatrician saw Emma just 3 weeks before her death for a hormonal disorder that causes depression. Had she understood the risk of suicide in teens like Emma, would she have treated that disorder more aggressively or, perhaps, referred her to a psychiatrist for an assessment? If her therapist, who she saw the night before she ended her life, had had specific training in assessment of suicide risk, would she have picked up a sign that would have allowed us to intervene before it was too late?

I became involved with AFSP as a field advocate because I believe we can do a better job of preventing suicide. We can raise awareness about suicide prevention and mental illness and reduce the stigma that prevents people from seeking treatment. We can get all the information we already know about suicide prevention into the hands of the people who are best positioned to identify and intervene with those at risk: school personnel, primary care physicians, and behavioral health providers. We can fund research that will unlock remaining mysteries about suicide and mental illnesses and lead to safer and more effective treatments. If we join together to do these things, I know we can save lives.

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about Emma and remember the gift that she was in our lives. Working on behalf of AFSP is my way of honoring her and thanking her for the many beautiful memories that I treasure.

– Nancy von Euler

Emma’s mother, Nancy, shares stories about Emma on her blog “Emma Times

Calls to action:

  • The Sodina Project shares stories to foster connection and save lives. This grass-roots movement needs your help in connecting with others. Please share the stories and blog posts with your friends and social networks if they have moved you or made you reflective. You will find sharing options at the end of each post.
  • Visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) or other organizations on our injury/suicide prevention page to learn more about preventing injuries and suicide.

If you have a story to share about the death of a loved one as a result of violence, please submit your story here.

Sodina | Voices to Stop Violence

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