TEEN SUICIDE: One Parent’s Story

In the end, 16 year old Katerra Harper gave in to all of the things she fought against.  The bullying. The depression. The stress. In the end, Katerra killed herself.

“You know, I’m never going to get to see my daughter go to prom.  I’m never going to throw her that graduation party that I was so looking forward to.” Katerra’s mother, Laura Dillinger said fighting back tears,  “We were just talking about class rings and senior pictures and and all this stuff I’m gonna miss. Grand baby’s, you know?”

As a rule, we don’t report on suicides, especially when kids commit suicide.  There’s too much of a chance it will somehow glamorize the death and may lead others to consider suicide.

But that’s why we decided to do this story.  Because Katerra’s parents are afraid others are already glamorizing her suicide.  And they say they don’t want anyone else to go through what they went through.

A few years ago, Katerra’s sister committed suicide. And Katerra just couldn’t cope with the loss.  “She started cutting,” her mother says,  “She developed an eating disorder.  The eating disorder caused her to cut more.  She just..she didn’t know how to heal.  She couldn’t heal her pain.”

Then, one day, Katerra decided to channel her pain into helping others.  She developed a Facebook page to help other teens cope with what she was gone through.  She seemed to know just what to say.

“At first when I looked at the page I think there was 38 ‘likes’ and she’s like ‘oh, look at my page. look at what I did’.  I thought that’s cool.  And then a couple of months later I looked and there’s like 13,000 people.” her mother says.

“Just astonishing.” Katerra’s stepfather, Steve Dillinger said, “I didn’t realize that my little girl..I understand she was my world. I didn’t understand that she was lots of peoples world.”

Psychologists tell us there are warning signs that parents can look for.  Katerra’s parents knew the warning signs.  They say in this case there really weren’t any.

“No more than any regular teenager I don’t think. Anymore than a regular teenager, you know?” Steve Dillinger says, “Wasn’t prepared for this.”

Katerra killed herself last week.

Now Katerra’s parents are scared.  They’re seeing posts on their daughter’s site from friends who seem to be considering suicide.  That Katerra’s suicide is somehow something to be honored.  “There was nothing glamorous about it.” Steve says,  “It’s the worst thing a father would ever have to do.  Worst thing everybody should have to do is to see what I saw.  It was not glamorous.  It was not pretty.”

The true tragedy of this story is what could have been.  Katerra wanted to be a therapist.  She could have helped thousands of people.  Instead…all she has left behind is pain.

“It’s very selfish.” Steve says,  “She took all her pain away, but all she did was give it to everybody that loved her.”

Katerra’s parents know, in time, her friends will forget her.  All the great things she did will be forgotten.  They want Katerra’s friends to know,  in the end Katerra won’t be anything great.  She won’t have a legacy.  In the end she’ll just be another suicide.  “She’s a victim.” her mother says, “A suicide victim.  She’s a quitter.”

For a listing of suicide prevention resources click here or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK.

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