On October 1st, 2000, a ruggedly handsome young man, former co-captain of his high school football team, stood on the rocks by Niagara Falls, before leaping to his death in its icy waters. Ryan Endsley was hardly 19 years old, a freshman at the College of Wooster, in Ohio, depressed and uncertain of his future when he took that fatal step.
His parents had just moved from Akron, Ohio to Flower Mound, Texas to begin a new life. The hopes for a bright future in Texas turned to devastation over the loss of their beloved son, Ryan. Sue and Steve Endsley wrestled with a myriad of questions about Ryan’s choice to end his life. He was a good boy, had been a good student in school, he was quiet but seemingly happy. Why, then, did he do this? How could he have come to such a state of turmoil and depression in his young life? The grief from his death was overwhelming and underscored by the knowledge that he didn’t die from an accident or illness, but by the unthinkable---suicide.
Sue’s grief lingered for four long years before she finally found a support group called “Touched by Suicide” in Plano, Texas. She began attending this group in order to talk to people like herself, people who were suffering from the unimaginable grief of loss of a child to suicide. As Sue described it, “I needed to meet others to find out how they survived and about how to wrap my brain around my son’s suicide.” The people in the support group at Custard Road United Methodist Church began to help her find some measure of peace and, in a few months, she began thinking that she might start such a group at her own church in Flower Mound in order to be closer to home.
She talked to the leader, was encouraged to take that step, and was given permission to use the title of the group, “Touched by Suicide” for her own group. Sue’s pastor encouraged her as well. So, on June 22, 2004, Sue Endsley began the first meeting of “Touched by Suicide” at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Flower Mound. A lone man came to the first meeting. In August of 2004, she went to Albuquerque, NM for training as a facilitator which was provided by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).
Sue had heard about a walk which AFSP conducts each year to remember suicide victims and to help survivors. This was a fund raiser to help in suicide prevention through AFSP. Her visit to Austin in 2006 was to see how it worked. After that, she started the first AFSP walk, “Out of the Darkness”, in Flower Mound, in 2007 and her efforts resulted in almost $10,000 raised for suicide prevention. With that success, she held a second walk in 2008, again raising a considerable amount of money.
When she was ready to begin the 2009 walk, she was informed that a new chapter of AFSP was beginning in Dallas and the organization wanted her to move her walk and combine with the walk in Plano so that the walks were spread out in better geographic locations. That news did not sit well with Sue who had ideas of her own.
For the walk in 2009, Sue formed her own independent group of Touched by Suicide and called upon other survivors and support group attendees to help her run the walk independent of AFSP. The Walk was again held at Parker Square in Flower Mound.
When Sue moved away from the DFW area in April of 2010, she vowed to keep reaching out to people who are in grief. She said, “It helps me to help others get through the first months, to make sure they are not alone trying to understand what has happened to their world.” Sue returns every year to participate in the walk for Touched by Suicide.
In succeeding years, the walk has continued to be independently run by Touched by Suicide, though at varying locations, with all proceeds being used to further our mission of providing resources to survivors of suicide loss, supporting postvention efforts, and educating the public in whatever ways we can. Over the years, we've also donated funds to schools and organizations who are working towards the same goals as TBS.
TBS now provides adult support groups in Flower Mound, Lewisville and Denton, and has recently added a group for teens (TBS4Teens). Since the inception of that first support group meeting in 2007 with one lone attendee, TBS has provided support to over 500 individuals and families who have been touched by suicide.
This year, 2016, as we mark ten years of the existence of Touched by Suicide, we continue seeking ways to reach more people grieving this terrible tragedy and to educate the public about suicide prevention and reducing the stigma of suicide.
The one tragic act of a young man named Ryan Endsley and, his mother, Sue’s attempt to find people like herself to find solace in the knowledge that this unthinkable act could be turned into something positive, has led all of us to this work in an effort to stem the growing tide of suicide in our communities and across the land.