Fargo family who lost son to suicide tackles mission of prevention, education in a big way

Tray Ling

He and his wife, Elizabeth, and daughter, Selma, have suffered something they hope no other family has to go through. They lost their son and brother, the vibrant 15-year-old Liam, to suicide in February. Although the steps have been small in recovering from the tragedy, in another way they have […]

He and his wife, Elizabeth, and daughter, Selma, have suffered something they hope no other family has to go through. They lost their son and brother, the vibrant 15-year-old Liam, to suicide in February.

Although the steps have been small in recovering from the tragedy, in another way they have been big — really big.

Not only have they been featured in a film on suicide prevention produced by the Fargo Police Department’s community engagement team called “Break the Silence,” but have also formed a foundation called “4-6-3,” a reference to their son’s love for baseball, with the Dakota Medical Foundation to also work on prevention and mental health education efforts.

With memorials for their son, who also loved football, they helped pay for the new artificial turf for the Davies High School football field and assisted the local Boy Scout organization.

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It was a big day for the family this past Monday when they not only attended and were honored for their participation in the premiere of the film at City Hall, but they also were invited to be a part of the dedication of the turf at Davies, where their son attended school.

If that’s not enough, as they continue their mission to try to prevent any further tragedies in the community after a Fargo North student also committed suicide this past school year, they are also working on a 30-team baseball tournament for traveling teams of 13- to 15-year-olds from the three-state region on June 11-13 in honor of their son and to again emphasize suicide prevention efforts and raise awareness about mental health.

They are indeed breaking the silence and taking big steps to make it known that help is available..

The 24-minute film is “powerful” with so many “positive comments,” said Sgt. Christie Jacobsen who heads up the 11-officer community engagement team made up mostly of school resource officers.

In the film, the Medds share their story about their son who was called a “bright light” and an “ultimate friend.”

“He was always there for his friends and family,” the Medds say in the film. They were concerned about “a thousand other things but suicide wasn’t on the list” and they had “seen no red flags.”

As they headed out to feed the horses and were gone about an hour, the last words out of Liam’s mouth were “I love you guys” as he shared ice cream with his sister. When they returned home, “our world had changed.”

They would “do anything to have him back,” but their mission is now to try to help others.

The film also features former University of Minnesota football star running back Shannon Brooks who came close to ending his life while staring within “inches of a passing train,” a local young woman who lost a sister she called her best friend to suicide and a panel discussion with local high school students asking questions and seeking advice from three Fargo mental health professionals.

The main message of professionals in the field: Help is there whether with school counselors, friends, school resource officers or local hospitals and agencies. People can seek help by simply dialing First Link at 211 or the suicide prevention hotline at 800-273-8255. They added not to be afraid of asking someone who you think may be suffering or having suicidal thoughts the tough questions.

Brooks, whose promising career was cut short with three knee injuries, said in the film “I just didn’t want to be here anymore.”

As he was physically recovering from being hit in the head by the edge of the train, a text from one of his best friends that said he loved him and that “you have a purpose yet in this world and you aren’t done yet” was a start to his mental recovery, too.

For injured athletes, there is life outside of sports he has come to find.

Jacobsen said their team has usually been holding assemblies in area schools with motivational speakers and entertainers, but with COVID-19 the assemblies were out.

As a result, the team formed about 18 months ago to work together to try help youth in the city decided on the film and the topic. It didn’t take long to decide the subject after the two suicides among the high school students. Increases in calls for mental health services among other city residents was also a factor as well as the toll it can take on officers who respond to tragic situations.

Two officers, Michael Bloom and Samantha Lashomb, had the vision and narrate the film, noting that suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 34.

Jacobson said they hope all schools in the region or even nationwide will show the film in classes if not yet this year in the “years and years to come.”

She said the message is timeless. It’s available for people to view at home, too, at www.breakthesilencetogether.org.

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