CADILLAC — Lori Yazbeck dreads the nightly war — her thoughts vs. sleep. When she closes her eyes, she is haunted by memories of her beautiful son. And now he’s gone. There were no warning signs, yet the guilt is unbearable — luring her thoughts into dark places.

There is only one way to end the pain and she considers her options.

But two daughters and the teenage boys she took into her home, the young adults that call her mom, they draw her back.

After one particularly rough night she called her friend Heidy in the early morning hours. She too had a rough night.

“My life has been ruined by suicide,‘ said Heidy Haskin. “Lori and I — our lives will never be the same.‘

As they push through their grief, Yazbeck and Haskin have teamed up to prevent anyone from having to live through the unexpected loss of a child by suicide. They are aggressively working to raise suicide awareness through prevention campaigns. They have recorded ads for radio. They also have a Facebook page and YouTube channel called Tears From Daniel. In addition, they started a support group called Mothers Left Behind.

A refuge

Gregg Carner’s downtown art shop has long been a refuge for struggling artists, a place to set up an easel and paint or display their work. The coffee is always on. And Carner’s heart is always open.

Yazbeck and Haskin recently added more art to their display near the front of his store, Brinks Custom Framing. Yazbeck paints vivid oil landscapes and Haskin paints acrylic angels on vintage windows. Carner’s welcome soothes them, for he too knows the grief of losing a child. The women’s art is for sale to help fund their suicide prevention efforts.

The two moms met after the August deaths of their sons. Their shared grief has created a strong bond.

“I want to use my painting to create suicide awareness,‘ said Yazbeck, who started the Facebook page called Tears From Daniel.

“We want to do this together,‘ Haskin said. “We feel our sons brought us together and this is our mission ... This is real. This is happening. Suicide is an epidemic ... I don’t want another mother to feel like I’m feeling.‘

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Michigan’s suicide rate increased 32.9 percent between 1999 to 2016. In half the states, suicide among people age 10 and older increased more than 30 percent.

Last August

On August 7, Daniel Yazbeck 22, posted “Today is a good day. I like today.‘

On August 8, he posted an apology.

“I am so sorry. This is no one’s fault but my own — and to my family, I couldn’t say goodbye because I knew you would change my mind. I fought this for years and years and it was a long time coming it’s no one’s fault but my own ...‘

He took his life in the early morning hours of August 9.

When Jessup Thomas’s phone rang that night, his fiance answered

“Something happened to Daniel,‘ she said crying.

They rushed to the hospital, where they learned that Daniel had died by suicide.

“There were no warning signs,‘ Thomas said. “Daniel was going to be a groomsman in our wedding. He was a good person, he was great. If somebody needed help, he was right there.‘

“The world literally changed that day,‘ said Luke Keway. “He was one of my best friends. You want to see him and hug him, hang out with him again. This was so sudden. I had no idea ... nobody had any idea ... we had plans for later that week.‘

“Daniel was a dear friend of our son Eddie,‘ said Juanita Avila, an administrative assistant for the city of Cadillac. “He was my husband’s apprentice and he loved working on vehicles ... we were very shocked.‘

Yazbeck had no warning signs before her son’s death, other than the usual struggles young people go through with finances and relationships. But after his death, she found mental health brochures with the suicide hotline number in his truck.

Researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that more than half the people who died by suicide didn’t have a known, diagnosed mental health condition at the time of death.

A second suicide

On August 24, Joshua Kamphouse 21, a McBain High School graduate, also died by suicide.

“Last August, everything was going great,‘ said his mom, Heidy Haskin of Harrison. “Josh and I would get together once a week for lunch. We had just been shopping for his wedding clothes, he was going to walk me down the aisle. Joshua gave us no signs that would have made us worry about him harming himself. We were all in shock and disbelief. He was everything I ever prayed for in a son. Our families are completely devastated.‘

“I didn’t see any warning signs at all,‘ said Manuel Meija, 30, who works for Bader and Sons in Lake City. “He was my wife’s cousin and after he got into lifting, he was coming over every night. We got close, we hit it off. I had called him that night (he died). He was supposed to come over for a bonfire.‘

“I feel that God brought Lori and I together,‘ Haskin said of their prevention efforts. “One night it hit me, our sons knew each other. Joshua posted the suicide hotline number and a message to Daniel’s family on Instagram (after Daniel’s death). He said how bad he felt. I was stunned when it hit me that they had that connection.‘

In addition to her work with Yazbeck, Haskin regularly posts videos on her personal Facebook page, pleading with young people not to take their lives.

Tears From Daniel

So far the Tears From Daniel Facebook page has reached almost 40,000 people.

It’s a place where people can share their stories of suicide. Photographer Juanita Avila takes photos of the story-tellers holding portraits of their loved ones.

Now people are messaging them for help.

Both moms are in the early stages of grief and in counseling. But the number of people seeking their help has been overwhelming.

Their next goal is to get training in suicide prevention so they can help stop the epidemic and prevent another mom from experiencing their pain.

National Public Health Crisis

Dr. Polly Gipson, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist and clinical associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry, Child and Adolescent Section, at Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School. She is also a member of the Youth and Young Adult Depression and Suicide Prevention Research Program.

“The latest statistics indicate that suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth and young adults,‘ Gipson said. “When you have that impacting significant numbers of young people, to me, that’s a national public health crisis.‘

She noted that a published report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has adopted as its theme the promotion of “individual, family and community connectedness to prevent suicide.‘

“The CDC is centered on connectiveness as a protective factor,‘ she said. “That can go a long way. This is a ray of hope, reminding people that suicide is preventable, and that there are a number of recommended strategies, including identifying people at elevated risk through gatekeeper training, providing evidence-based interventions, and promoting connectedness.‘

Gipson also stressed that it’s important to be familiar with the suicide warning signs.

“Listen to your instincts,‘ she said. “If you are seeing changes in your loved one, something that doesn’t seem quite right, listen to that and express your concern.‘

“I’m sorry to hear about your community suicides,‘ she added. “It’s a national problem, and when it hits home it’s deeply personal. It is really important for survivors of suicide to seek support ... it’s important for them to seek help and share their grief.‘

Where to get help

Northern Lakes Community Mental Health, 527 Cobb St., in Cadillac, will give immediate help to anyone who walks into their office and says they are in crisis.

“It doesn’t matter what type of insurance, we will see anybody in our office,‘ said Stacey Kaminski, operations manager.

To receive crisis services call 1-833-295-0616, a 24/7 hotline.

“We always have somebody on call,‘ Kaminski said. “And we have a mobile crisis team, the Family Assessment Safety Team.‘

The 24/7 FAST team of two will respond to calls and provide face-to-face supportive listening, crisis assessment, a crisis treatment plan, stabilization services, and connections to ongoing support for all youth up to 20 years old.

Last August, the FAST team became available in Wexford and Missaukee counties and can be deployed to a home or school setting and provide up to 90-days of follow-up treatment.

NLCMH also is the home of the Wexford-Missaukee Suicide Coalition, the group that sponsors the annual Suicide Awareness Walk. New members are welcome. The next meeting is at 4 p.m. on March 7 at 527 Cobb St. (231) 876-3280. They provide Safe Talk training, how to talk and react to a person that is suicidal and create a safety plan.

Third Level of Traverse City has a 24 hour crisis line staffed with trained counselors. Call 24/7 at (800) 442-7315.

Crisis text line 741 741, text CONNECT

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).

The University of Michigan Depression Center has a website with toolkits, providing advice on how to stay mentally healthy, how to support someone in crisis, how to become a mental health advocate and additional resources.

www.depressioncenter.org

Grief Share Support Group meets from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Resurrection Life Church, 9127 E. 44 1/2 Road, Cadillac, Michigan.