Grieving widow wants her artwork to gently inform children about suicide

Jim Cunningham
September 10, 2018 - 6:41 am

An art teacher in the Northland hopes her children's book erases some of the stigma surrounding the subject of suicide.

In 2015 Lindsey Doolittle discovered her husband's body in their garage. The police sergeant who worked in Kansas City, Kansas had taken his own life. Deeply grief-stricken, Doolittle also attempted suicide. Then, she decided to turn her family's tragedy into a teachable moment.

"I think to myself, what if I knew the warning signs, what if Brett, my husband, knew the warning signs?" Doolittle said. "We were never taught in school."

Doolittle got involved in a group called Suicide Awareness Survivor Support, or SASS. There, she drew pictures of other survivors, capturing their grief. She made those drawings into a collection she called "Faces After Suicide," which is on display in the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center at 2012 Baltimore in Kansas City. Doolittle also wrote a children's book, "Goodnight Mr. Vincent van Gogh" as a way to gently explain suicide to children.

"I was told not to talk about it," Doolittle said. "I wanted the kids to know the truth, because I don't want the stigma to repeat itself."

The second-leading cause of death in Missouri for people ages 10 to 24 is suicide. Children are not being protected when adults sweep suicide under the rug, Doolittle said.

"I wanted any child who picks up the book to know that they're not alone, and that it wasn't their fault, and to not be ashamed," Doolittle said.

Doolittle's book is distributed throughout libraries in the North Kansas City School District. Doolittle also has a website, and she makes appearances across the country where she talks about her suicide prevention work.

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