Garry and Trudy Carlson were concerned about their son’s manic-depression, which led to extreme mood swings.
They feared he would harm himself, so they removed a part from a shotgun and made sure that any ammunition was stored at another location.
Ben Carlson, then 14, was under the care of a child psychiatrist. He was receiving medication. Trudy Carlson was trained in child psychiatry and developmental psychology.
None of that mattered on May 31, 1989.
That was the day Garry and Trudy Carlson’s son put the weapon together, loaded the shell and ended his young life.
A numb and grieving Trudy Carlson wondered what she could have done to save Ben.
The Duluth, Minn., woman’s search for answers has led her to writing two books that she hopes will provide some solace for survivors of suicide victims and understanding for those who want to know more about the subject.
The books are: “The Suicide of My Son: a story of childhood depression,” and “Suicide Survivors’ Handbook: a guide for the bereaved and those who wish to help them.”
Carlson, 50, explained her motivation for writing the books:
“So many parents beat themselves over the head saying, ‘If only I had taken him to a psychiatrist.’ We took him (Ben) to what I considered to be the best child psychiatrist in the state. Or, ‘If only we had tried medication.’ My son tried medication. ‘If only we had done this, if only we had done that.’ We did all the ‘if onlys.’
“If a child has a serious problem, it’s like asking if a child who has cancer is going to be cured. Well, it depends on what kind of cancer it is.
“Some cancers you can beat, and some cancers you can’t beat. It’s scary, but it’s also real.”
Carlson said her books differ from most that have been written on childhood suicide in that she explores the developmental process from infancy through childhood and the symptoms that lead to suicide.
Few people are able to detect the symptoms of depression in children, she said.
In “The Suicide of My Son,” Carlson describes two forms of treatment for childhood depression and anxiety disorders. She answers questions about depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactive disorder and how they overlap.