Kind. Loving. Gentle. Quick-witted. Sports fanatic. Guitarist.
These are the words used by friends and family to describe Andrew (Andy) Wade. The younger of two children of parents Christopher and Karen Wade, Andy was a beloved son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin and uncle in a close and adoring family.
On October 14th, 2011, Andy’s body was discovered in a creek bed, underneath the 150 foot bridge he had jumped from.
In a moment all families fear in the deepest recesses of their soul, the coroner came to the door of the family home with the news that he had been found in the mountains, about 20 miles from home. He had left home the day before and hadn’t returned.
After suffering from depression throughout his life and a particularly severe psychotic episode in August 2010, Andy was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 23.
In the year after the diagnosis, he showed enormous courage and dignity in his attempt to “get his life back.” Medication, intensive therapy, volunteering at a local homeless center, a return to school and work – to Andy’s friends and family, he seemed to be feeling better and reclaiming his life.
But then, Andy had been unusually quiet leading up to October 13. On that day, he complained about feeling tired. He declined to attend a family dinner to be held that night. That afternoon, Andy slipped out to go to the pharmacy.
The next day, the coroner arrived.
As Andy’s family began to tackle the emotional abyss attached to such a shocking outcome, they learned that research shows that half of all people with bipolar disorder attempt suicide at some point in their lives, and about 10 to 15% actually die by suicide. The family concluded that, had they known about this statistic, they would have had different conversations among themselves, with Andy, with his doctors and friends about how to talk about suicide and thoughts about suicide.
Just as chest pain is often a precursor to heart disease – a symptom that requires immediate medical attention to prevent death – thoughts about suicide are a symptom of a potentially lethal depression that could lead to suicide. Medical attention is paramount.
However, many people in the throes of suicidal thoughts keep those thoughts to themselves – embarrassed, shamed, feeling worthless and hopeless. Tragically, that wall of pain often collapses around them and they do whatever it takes to calm the raging storm.
The Andrew Wade Friendship Foundation embraces people of all ages, in all stages of life, who are wrestling themselves with mental illness or that of a loved one. However, because of its intimate experience with the emergence of mental illness in adolescence and young adulthood, its efforts are focused on the recovery of wellbeing among young people in the early stages of serious mental illness.