Helping prevent suicide, this month and every month

Rohlwing 1
Brandon and his older sister, Biz, as children.

Of all the special days in September—including Labor Day, Grandparents Day and even Cheese Pizza Day—there is one that is especially important to me. September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day, an annual day of awareness events around the world.

This day (and month, as September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month) hits close to home for the families of the 38,000 Americans who die of suicide each year, and for the many more people who have attempted suicide. Three years ago, my family became one of those grieving families.

On May 19, 2012, the day of my high school graduation, my family received information that broke us. My sister Biz had died. Biz was four years older than me, passionate about film and TV production, a world traveler and my best friend. While most people who knew Biz knew those facts, what they did not know—nor did anyone—was that she was struggling deeply with depression. This depression went untreated and worsened.

Rohlwing 2
Brandon found out about Biz’s death on the day he graduated high school.

When I came to Roosevelt three months later to start my freshman year, I was worried that I would not do well. I was feeling emotional every day and struggling to sleep. I thought long and hard about where I was at the moment and what would help me feel better. I decided to turn my sadness into purpose and anger into action. I changed my major from pre-medicine to integrated marketing communications, with the ultimate goal of working for a suicide prevention or mental health awareness nonprofit. I found my passion and my calling through my darkest moment.

rohlwing 3
Brandon turned his heartache into advocacy, working with several mental health organizations to prevent suicide.

I became involved with ReachOut.com, a nonprofit dedicated to helping young adults get through tough times, and I started volunteering with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Through this, I have realized how many other people here in Illinois are affected by suicide. Over the past few years, I’ve participated in two overnight walks, two community walks and a legislative lobby day in Springfield. I also now serve as the chairperson for the College Outreach Committee for AFSP Illinois.

Rohlwing 4
Brandon and his dad, Todd, on a suicide prevention walk.

On September 26, the AFSP Illinois Chapter will host the largest suicide prevention event in the nation, the Chicagoland Out of the Darkness Walk. Taking place in Grant Park, this event will bring together more than 2,500 people. I have the honor of serving on the planning committee for this walk, and I am so inspired and excited by how many passionate and dedicated people are participating. I can’t wait to walk with family and friends by my side. Sign up to walk, fundraise or volunteer.

That walk is just one of many ways to get involved this month with suicide prevention and awareness. Campaigns include:

  • Banner of Hope by the SPEED student programming board
    • Taking place during National Suicide Prevention Week (Sept. 8–11) where the Wabash/Auditorium buildings meet on the second floor (the bridge); the community is asked to write down what makes them happy, gives them hope or inspirational words. The display will also include resources for those who may be struggling.
  • We’ll See You Tomorrow by To Write Love On Her Arms
  • Be The Voice by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
  • Cycle Around the Globe by the International Association for Suicide Prevention

Suicide can be prevented. Help is available. Healing is possible. There is always hope.


In this video, Brandon talks about life without his sister and what he’ll tell his future children about her.

If you feel you are in a crisis and need to speak to someone now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Lifeline is a free, confidential, 24-hour hotline for anyone who is going through emotional distress or is in suicidal crisis. Crisis Text Line is also available 24/7 by texting 741-741.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *