Mother finds solace in suicide support group
If Chris Beeman’s cell phone battery hadn’t died, his mother figures, he’d still be alive.
“Suicide is the pain of the moment, and if they can get through that moment, they will still be with us,” said Gail Beeman.
Unable to talk to anyone because of the battery, the 20-year-old leapt to his death from the 730-foot Foresthill Bridge just outside Auburn on June 14, 2004.
It followed an under-21 DUI with a low alcohol count, the loss of his driver’s license and a breakup with his girlfriend. Gail and Steve Beeman now think Chris’ death was a classic case of situational depression leading to suicide.
The southern Nevada County family wants to see positive come out of Chris’ early demise, and the couple is forming a local chapter of the National Friends for Survival, a support group for those who have lost someone through suicide.
“Everybody thinks it can’t happen in their family, but it can. They’re wrong,” Beeman said. Chris “didn’t fit the profile. He was well-adjusted,” popular and had many friends after graduation from Bear River High School in 2000.
“We’re trying to take positive steps to get people to talk about it, you have to talk about it,” Beeman said.
The Beemans are on the board of directors of Friends for Survival in Sacramento and see the need for a foothill area chapter in Auburn, which could centrally draw from Nevada and Placer counties. The recent rash of suicides in Nevada County points to the need, she said.
“The meetings are like (Alcoholics Anonymous), because you hear feelings you think are your own, and you can relate to them,” Gail Beeman said. “I’m amazed at how many people say to me, ‘My son or brother committed suicide, but I don’t talk about it.’ Now they can.”
Alcohol: Fuel to the fire
The stigma is the second blow to most families, Gail said. Friends of Chris Beeman still stay in touch with the family and have been very supportive, she said.
For most families, though, hardly anyone comes around or talks about the suicide with the survivors because they have no idea how to handle or discuss it, Beeman said.
That’s one reason why she thinks it’s important to get the word out about depression, clinical and situational, to schools.
“We tell kids to not drink and drive, how about don’t drive depressed?” Beeman said.
“Boys 15 to 25 have the same hormonal imbalances that girls do, up one week and down the next,” Beeman said. “If you feel depressed and you add alcohol and drugs, you’re just adding fuel to the fire.”
Young people should have it explained to them that chemical and hormonal imbalances will occur normally, causing them to feel blue. It’s not because they are weird or have serious mental disease, Beeman said.
If that happens, young people should talk to their parents or a school counselor, Beeman said.
“We don’t realize how divorce and drug use (involving parents) affects our teen-agers, and they have other stresses on them in school today,” Beeman said. “It’s no longer, ‘You need to go to college.’ It’s, ‘The best college.’
“We also don’t realize what a huge loss it is in a high-school breakup,” Beeman said.
That’s what was going on when Chris’s phone cut out while he was talking to his former girlfriend.
She frantically called 911 and the Beemans, who couldn’t get through to him. They know from phone records that he called home twice before his fatal decision. After that occurred, the Beeman’s decided to act.
First, they saw to it that solar-powered crisis line phones were placed on the bridge which, like the Golden Gate in San Francisco, has become a popular place to commit suicide.
“And they’re used,” Beeman said, convincing her that others have not jumped because of their actions.
One person who changed her mind did so after reading a journal left at the site where Chris Beeman jumped.
The Beemans hope others will learn about depression and suicide when KVIE airs “ViewFinder – Depression Into the Light” at 6 p.m. on Sunday and at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The family’s story dominates the first 10 minutes of the program. Daughter Carrie Beeman explains what it was like to lose her brother to suicide when she was only 14.
“It was hard to deal with it, but you take it day by day – and some aren’t great,” Carrie said.
To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4237.
The following note was left at the shrine on the Foresthill Bridge for Chris Beeman after his suicide. The power of the note speaks for itself; here it is verbatim, with the author’s spellings and punctuation:
My name is Chrissy.
I came here to jump today, but now can’t.
I’m 38 yrs old, I have 0 in life! But seeing everything that people have put here and what they have to say about you, makes me think I don’t even know you and you saved my life!
What do you say? Thank you that’s not enough.
Well, I’m goin’ to think some time & listen to cars go by. If and when I jump catch me!!
I know what you feel!
Join the support group,
learn about depression
To help form a local chapter of Friends for Survival, call Gail Beeman at 269-0729. To learn more about the group, call 1-800-646-7322 or visit http://www.friendsforsurvival.org.
The Beemans’ struggle with the suicide of their son, Chris, and their realization that he suffered from situational depression is depicted in the first 10 minutes of a show entitled, “ViewFinder – Depression: Into the Light,” on PBS station KVIE.
KVIE is often Channel 6 on cable lineups. Times for the program are as follows:
• 6 p.m. Sunday.
• 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
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