BARABOO, Wis. (WMTV) — A grieving mother is raising awareness about youth mental health nearly two months after losing her daughter to suicide.
The disappearance of Kodie Dutcher, 10, prompted an AMBER Alert throughout the state of Wisconsin back in July. One day later, Kodie’s body was found in a rural farm area, not far from her Baraboo home. The cause of death was later found to be suicide.
Kodie’s mother, Brandy Bielicki is now hoping her story helps other families.
Brandy says Kodie was a smart and witty kid. “Never a dull moment with her,” she said. This mother and daughter shared a special bond.
“I got a relationship with her that most people don’t get with their kids. I got to be her friend. I mean, I was her mom first, but I got to be her friend and she became like my best friend.”
Brandy recalls the day her life changed forever. She says she knew something was wrong. Her instinct was confirmed when she returned home to find Kodie was gone and had left nothing behind but a note. It read, Mom, I love you, but I can’t do it. Bye.”
“I’ve replayed her life over and over and over in my head and I’m like, what did I miss?” Brandy, a registered nurse says she’s trained to spot signs of mental distress in people. “My daughter showed nothing,” she says.
Her message to other parents of young children is that mental health is not always something you can see.
“Maybe if she knew that other kids struggled with the same emotional feelings that she was feeling. Maybe things could have changed for her. I’ll never know.” Brandy says that’s why it’s important to talk to your kids about mental health and suicide, even if you many think they’re too young to handle to topic.
She says it’s especially important right now during the pandemic. Kodie’s mom believes the isolation and loss of social interaction played a factor in her daughter’s death.
She doesn’t want this to happen to anyone else’s child.
Mental health issues are growing amid youth nationwide, including in Wisconsin.
“We’ve definitely seen an increase in suicidal behaviors for young people,” said Robin Mathies, Trauma and Resilience Program Manager at the Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services.
Recent data shows an increase in suicidal thoughts is particularly noticeable in young girls.
Mathies says there are a variety of resources available but the state could always use more. She also says it’s important to raise awareness about how to access the resources.
With families entering a new school year amid a pandemic, The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) is adapting to meet students’ mental health needs.
“Our educators have done an amazing job of creating new types of services and resources, adding information about how to contact the mental health professionals in their schools to their emails and websites,” said Julie Incitti, School Social Work Consultant.
DPI has a team of staffers who work on suicide prevention. Right now, one of the focuses is to find ways to connect with students even though most are begging the school year from home.
“With some schools being fully online, some hybrid, it’s going to be really important for schools to address connectedness,” said Brian Dean, Educational Consultant, also part of suicide prevention. He says some ways teachers are working to do this is with morning group meetings, google hangouts, and other virtual activities.
At home, Brandi is encouraging families to have the uncomfortable conversations.
“I hope that her death incites change somewhere else,” she says. Brandy says she doesn’t want her daughter to become just another statistic.
“Knowing that my daughter impacted people…that her life and legacy lives on, here love lives on, even though she doesn’t get to…that’s what it’s about for me right now.”
Parents are encouraged to reach out to your child’s school and ask what’s being done to address mental health right now. Check in with your kids, ask them how they’re feeling and offer support. If they don’t feel comfortable talking to you. Encourage them to find a trusted adult or friend. It’s also important to make sure you’re taking good care of your own mental health as children tend to pick up on those in their environments.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK.
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