People who complete suicide often don’t think through consequences

Gretchen McGeeney reminisces about her son Landon Orcutt, who completed suicide in California in 2006 at the age of 22. He was missing for more than a year before his remains were finally found. The cat belongs to Landon’s twin bother Michael, who is serving in the military overseas.

Landon Orcutt wasn’t thinking about missing out on his twin brother’s wedding. He didn’t consider that his mother would grieve each day, devastated not knowing what great things her talented son could have accomplished.

At least 300 other people who arrived with broken hearts to Orcutt’s memorial service mourned the loss of the sensitive and popular 21-year-old who loved to play the viola, act and sing. Orcutt, who family members later learned was in a bout of depression and anxious about his next stage in life, leapt 57 feet to his death off a rock in California during his fifth year of college. Although the 2002 Grand Junction High School graduate left three suicide notes, family and friends endured more than an agonizing year searching for his remains.

“The worst part of it was not knowing,” said Gretchen McGeeney, Landon’s mother. “I got to the point where I just didn’t care what the answer was. Your mind does crazy things. Did someone kidnap him? Was he in some sort of cult?”

McGeeney was about five years off from paying off her Grand Junction home when Landon completed suicide. Yet even before his body was found, his student loans came due, on which McGeeney had been a co-signer. Weary of the persistent phone calls from debt collectors, she refinanced her home back to its 30-year loan and paid off the $22,000 student loan debt.

“I’ll never pay this house off,” she said matter-of-factly.

McGeeney said she worries about the overriding notion that men who are going through depression often fail to seek help. Depression, after all, often can be explained by a chemical imbalance in the brain, she said. Seeking mental health help should be no different than seeking medical help for a broken bone or for cancer, McGeeney reasoned.

Since her son’s death, McGeeney has written about 15 songs to help her with the grieving process. She attends meetings at Heartbeat, a support group for loved ones of people who complete suicide. An Austrian pine tree in her backyard planted in memory of Landon was shorter than her 5-foot-frame when it was planted. Today McGeeney peers 25 feet up to view its top branches.

“Landon’s death has made me more compassionate of the pain people go through,” McGeeney said, choosing her words thoughtfully. “It has made me less tolerant of the little things people worry about.”


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