Suicide is the second leading cause of death in children and teenagers in Kentucky. The statistic from this University Of Kentucky report might shock you. It’s a reality, though, that 13-year-old Chaney Corley’s parents know all too well.
Chaney went to school at North Marshall Middle, but was accepted into the Marshall County High School band. She loved horsing around with her brothers. She wanted to be a forensic scientist when she grew up. She had so much more to do with her life, but she chose to cut it short.
Now her parents are sharing her story, so what happened to Chaney doesn’t happen to your child.
Chaney’s life was like a song, with its high notes and its low ones.
“If she knew the impact she had,” her mother, Angel Blackmon, said.
“She had no idea,” her stepfather, Tony Blackmon, finished. “She was such a good kid.”
“There’s a beginning, and then there’s an end,” Angel said of her daughter’s life, holding back tears.
The two remember their daughter vividly —her tiny hands when she was born, antics with her brothers, dressed up in her band uniform practicing her baritone.
They have so many happy memories, and they remember a smile they now know hid something much darker inside their daughter.
“She would tell us she was stupid. She would tell us she was ugly,” Tony said. “She would tell us she had no friends.”
Chaney was never diagnosed with depression, but she did see a therapist. Tony and Angel say things did improve, but five months ago they saw Chaney for the last time.
“That morning, I woke up late. I sent him in to wake her up,” Tony explained, pointing to his son.
It was Chaney’s little brother who found her, unresponsive. She had overdosed on prescription medication. The next day, Chaney was declared brain dead.
“You just don’t want to breathe, you know. You don’t, there’s no comprehension,” Angel struggled to find the words. “There’s nothing there.”
Impossible to explain, enormously painful —parents aren’t supposed to outlive their children, but they do.
Suicide is a more common reason than parents may realize. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports suicide is the third leading cause of death among children and teens ages 10 to 14. It’s the second leading cause of death in 15 to 34 year olds.
“The first thing I always tell families to look for is a change in behavior,” said Dr. Laurie Ballew, a psychiatrist with the Behavioral Health Institute at Lourdes hospital in Paducah.
Ballew says changes in sleep patterns, appetite, even how often they want to hang out with friends can all point to warning signs that parents, family members and friends should ask about.
“Not pressure them, but just open that window for them,” explained Ballew. “So that they know that they can approach the person.”
The approach includes education, understanding and compassion. That’s the purpose of the nonprofit Tony and Angel named for their daughter: By Chaney’s Hands.
“With most people, you can have your problems out here and you see everything. You still see the world,” Tony said, motioning with his hands to places in the distance. Then, he brings them closer to his face, “But when you’re a kid, or when you suffer from some type of mental illness, everything’s right there.”
Despite what may seem like an impenetrable darkness, Tony and Angel say don’t give up looking for the light. Just keep singing your song.
“Don’t be afraid to say something. Say anything, to anybody,” Tony said.
To learn more about By Chaney’s Hands, including the resources the group offers and how to donate so they can do more for people affected by suicide, click here.