ROCHESTER, Mich. – The Wellness Warriors are parents on a mission to speak out about mental health after experiencing teen suicides in their community.
The group formed in response to tragedies, but they said they’re on a mission to spread hope.
When Kelly Kuhlman’s husband, Erich, didn’t show up for work one morning, her mind raced. She was worried he may have gotten into a car crash.
“I’m panicking, I’m like, ‘What do I do?’ You’re kind of, like, numb,” Kuhlman said.
She later learned that Erich had died by suicide.
“For him to be in that moment and just, to say, ‘I just can not handle life anymore.’ That’s what sucks,” Kuhlman said.
Their daughter was 4 years old and their son was 6 years old at the time.
“That’s your mental state. That, there, in that moment. That, ‘I can’t handle this. I’m drowning’ and that’s what sucks,” Kuhlman said.
In the weeks and months after Erich’s death, she said she stayed focused on their children.
“Having lived through that part and then still raising kids with hoping to do what’s right for them, and the things they go through -- I mean, they’re young,” Kuhlman said. “But as they go through their teenage years and adult, I want to give them tools to be able to get through life and it’s going to go up and it’s going to go down -- but you’re worth living here, you’re going to be OK.”
Kuhlman heard about a group of mother’s in Rochester, who had formed the Wellness Warriors. After several suicides in their school district, the mothers said they felt lost.
“I am here to tell you there is no playbook on how to do this and when you’re dealing with what children are dealing with today -- I can’t go ask my mom, ‘How did you deal with this when I was a kid?’” Kelly Kruse said.
Their children came home from school with a lot of questions.
“I’m confused why would someone my age be so sad that they don’t want to be here anymore,” Heather Cicco said. “They couldn’t wrap their heads around it and frankly, I couldn’t either.
The Wellness Warriors want to try and help remove the stigma around mental health. They want to be a resource for other families in their area with children who may be feeling the same way.
They said they are finding that children need to start having conversations about mental health at a younger age. Families need to work to find ways to connect and have conversations with children and teens.
The Wellness Warriors reached out to another local organization, Prepare U, who helped guide them with a mental health course so they could figure out how to tackle some of the tough issues in the privacy of their own homes.
Since they formed their group they’ve been having a ripple effect. Parents from other Metro Detroit communities are reaching out for details on how they can start similar groups in their school district.