09/10/2014 10:40 am ET Updated Nov 10, 2014

How I Survived Suicide Loss

Phil Chearamonte

September 8-12 is National Suicide Prevention Week. The story you're about to read was written by someone who was deeply affected by suicide.

Twenty-seven years of marriage has brought many life challenges. However, the most difficult arrived over four and a half years ago.

Typical suburban family life changed suddenly and drastically on February 23, 2010 when our second born son, Joe, took his own life one week after his 17th birthday. Before our son died, we knew very little about suicide, and if we had known for one second that he was contemplating ending his own life, we would have done everything in our power to stop it, just as any parent would. We spoke to our children about their choices regarding drugs, alcohol, sex, friends and activities but we never thought to discuss the topic of depression and suicide with our son.

After we lost our son, Joe, I attempted to read and research everything I could on suicide to try and better understand what happened. In the very first of many sleepless nights, while searching the Internet, I found the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and specifically the Survivor Guide, which totally threw me for a loop as I so closely identified with the information the guide provided. I immediately downloaded the guide and emailed it to everyone in my family. While it was important and helpful to learn this information, it also worsened and increased my feelings of guilt and regret. "If I only knew then what I know now" ... kind of revelation. We now have concluded that Joe must have suffered from depression. Signs he gave prior to taking his life were not recognized or diagnosed, but seem more obvious now, and I still wonder how I could have missed them.

While this devastating tragedy is very difficult to discuss and comprehend, we feel the only positive outcome from our story is to help other young people, families and the community become aware of the serious nature of the issues. This experience has led us to embark on a lifelong mission to help eliminate the stigma surrounding the issues of teen depression and suicide. Through advocacy and participation in the Western New York Chapter of AFSP, we continue to enhance awareness, promote prevention, and guide anyone needing assistance to seek support from qualified professionals, organizations and agencies.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

This blog post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in conjunction with National Suicide Prevention Week. For more information about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, visit here.