Springfield Couple Speak Openly About Son’s Suicide And Their Own Mental Health

Feb 7, 2019

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The Springfield Greene County Health Department, with funding support from the Missouri Foundation for Health, is leading a major mental health needs assessment in partnership with Burrell Behavioral Health, Cox Health, Mercy Springfield, and Jordan Valley Community Health Center. 

The purpose is to analyze the current state of mental health services available, assess the needs of the community, and address the gap between the two.  As part of this effort, a new series "Let's Talk About It! Normalizing Mental Health Conversations, is supported by the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. 

Tim and Mary Jane Holmes (Spreading Hope by Spreading Sam) lost their son Sam, to suicide, 17 March 2017. The Springfield couple shares Sam’s story, and speak openly about their own mental health issues, on this edition of, Let’s Talk About It! Normalizing Mental Health Conversations, from KSMU’s on-going series, Making a Difference: 

“The feelings you get, really on a daily basis, feels like a heavy weight,” said Tim Holmes.

Tim Holmes In KSMU Studio Sharing Memories of His Son Sam
Credit Aaron Scott / Community Foundation of the Ozarks

“Sometimes you can fend it off, but other times, it just comes over you,” he said. 

“It’s all encompassing.  It affects every cell in our body, it affects every relationship and impacts every decision you make.  The pain just doesn’t go away.  It’s going to be a lifelong process,” said Mary Jane Mary Jane Holmes.

Mary Jane Holmes says her son Sam, completed suicide in March 2017, “It was Spring Break, and he was staying at the dorm alone, and he called to ask if he could come home, saying he was pretty lonely.”

“We were fortunate enough that he spent a few days with us, although they were not good days.  He spent most of the time in bed, and we knew something was really wrong,” she said. 

“We found his final note in his journal.  We found it that day.  We knew where to look,” said Mary Jane.

“I don’t think we were really too surprised about what it said. Sam had stopped telling us he loved us, early on, probably the end of grade school.  And so we never heard that from his since grade school. In the note he said he truly loved us, but he was afraid to say it, because he lost everything that meant something to him, and was afraid he’d lose us,” she said.  

Tim Holmes says his son Sam, was a great kid.  “Yes, just a great kid.  He started out as the most active happy kid.  He couldn’t sit still for more than a couple minutes at a time. He loved being with other kids, and was very kind to others, just very, very kind,” he said. 

A Family Outing Out West Has Sam Holmes Jumping For Joy
Credit Tim and Mary Jane Holmes

“He was very excited about Middle School,” said Mary Jane.

“His 6th grade year went ok, his 7th grade year we saw some pretty big changes in him.  He started pulling away,” she said. 

“He did pull away, but he still went to school; played basketball, played on the golf team.  He was very successful at everything he did” said Tim Holmes

“We were very thankful he played sports.  I think that was the only thing out there for his saving grace,” said Mary Jane

“He played varsity basketball and golf since he was in grade school,” she Said. 

“Sam and I played a lot of golf.  I started him out when he was about 3. He loved it from day one, and we had a great time doing it.  He was a natural at it, and we spent a lot of time on the golf course together,” said Tim Holmes.

“He played all four years at Glendale.  Made it to the State Tournament all four years, the first year as an individual, and then their team qualified his freshman, sophomore and junior year,”  he said.

Sam Holmes Flanked By His Glendale HS Teammates Following Their State Championship Victory in 2016
Credit Tim and Mary Jane Holmes

“They ended up winning the State Tournament his senior year; in fact they won every tournament they played in that year, they had a perfect season,"  said Tim Holmes.

“Sam ended up finishing 5th in State, and got a scholarship offer here at Missouri State University,” he said. 

“One thing about Sam, he met every single goal he set for himself," said Mary Jane Holmes.

“Sam was very afraid of embarrassing himself, I think, in front of others.  And so there may have been something that we didn’t know about that happened,” said Tim Holmes.

“I think it was more his anxiety moving in.  Anxiety, according to his best friend was more of a problem than the depression,” said Mary Jane.

Mary Jane Holmes at KSMU
Credit Aaron Scott / Community Foundation of the Ozarks

“My daughter experienced many of the same symptoms that he displayed.  She struggled a lot and was suicidal.  We know it’s genetic. Tim and I both struggle with depression and anxiety ourselves.  It goes back to the grandparents, maybe the great grandparents, who knows?  So we knew exactly what happened. Sam had told us at one point, when he finally started talking about things, that he had been suicidal since Middle School, so we feel very fortunate we had the time with him that we did,” she said.

“The grief affects everything,” said Tim Holmes.

“It affects your sleep, because it just wears you out.  You wake up at different times of the night and start thinking about your son. The pain is so deep, it’s like nothing I’ve ever felt before,” he said. 

Tim and Mary Jane Holmes say their sorrow is at times completely overwhelming, but membership in the Lost and Found Grief Center, counseling sessions, exercise, and going public with their story, is part of the healing process. 

“I think the day we decided to put it out there, was the day we wrote his obituary, and stated that he died by suicide, and not tried to cover it up,” said Mary Jane Holmes.

“I think we knew from that day forward that we were going to be speaking to the public, trying to bring more awareness to this.  You just so much want to make a difference. You just hope what you say will help someone else,” she said. 

“Yeah, it’s scary at first, to admit you suffer from anxiety or depression,” said Tim.

“But once that initial fear is not realized, and the person you’re telling is understanding, or had no idea, it does help, and it’s definitely a relief to get it off your chest,” he said.

“There’s so much stigma, and so much judgement about mental illness” said Mary Jane.

“Something people don’t realize, is depression and bi-polar, anxiety and all these things, are and illness of the brain.  An illness just like cancer or any other disease to an organ in the body, and until people can accept this; I don’t think things are really going to change.  So I try to educate about that when I’m in the high schools, or wherever I’m speaking.  We have to look at it as an illness of the brain,” she said.

“In regard to stigma in my life, as far as mental illness goes, I’ve been out there with it for a long time.  I’ve led ladies bible studies, different women’s groups, and have always talked about it, put it out there, and encouraged women to get help,” said Mary Jane Holmes.

“My mom was the same way, and I think I had a great role model with the fact that, if you can help others with the problems you have, then that’s part of the healing,” she said.

Tim and Mary Jane Holmes With KSMU's Mike Smith
Credit Aaron Scott / Community Foundation of the Ozarks

For information on the community wide Mental Health Assessment, currently underway:

The Springfield Greene County Health Department www.springfieldmo.gov/2853/Health   

A listing of support services can be found at:  www.springfieldmo.gov/3683/mental-health-resources

Burrell Behavioral Health:  www.burrellcenter.com

Community Foundation of the Ozarks:  www.cfozarks.or