by Ashley Prout McAvey ’92
On April 9, 2016, my beautiful brother and dearest friend, Ian Uppercu Prout ’90, ended his life. From then on, my life, and my family’s, was bifurcated into two distinct periods: before April 9 and afterApril 9.
The pain of that finality, that physical loss, cannot be put into words. The deeper layer suicide survivors face—the questions—are haunting, particularly when the beautiful soul who perishes expended vast amounts of energy to keep their struggles so well hidden, as was the case with Ian.
For us who remained, the questions began relentlessly: When did Ian’s pain begin? When was the first time he thought suicide was an answer? How could we have not seen the degree to which he was hurting? Why didn’t he let us try to help him? How in the world could he think that we would be ok without him?
What happened in the days and weeks following Ian’s death was, for me, the biggest shift of perspective I’ve ever had in my life. Several years ago, there was a suicide near our family. I distinctly remember talking to Ian about it. Although I was deeply saddened for the family, I also recall repeatedly saying to Ian, “But how selfish!” He didn’t respond, and he didn’t argue with me. He was just quiet, perhaps being careful to keep his own inner struggles to himself. Or maybe he didn’t want to defend this desperate soul because if he did, I might start questioning him. Or maybe his silence acknowledged the often accepted platitude in our society—the myth— that suicide is selfish; that it is someone else’s problem; that it is something one does to their loved ones. I now realize that the only selfish one in that conversation was me.
Before April 9, I did think suicide was selfish. I thought it was for “other people”— people with obvious problems that surely their loved ones could have easily picked up on. I thought, “How sad forthem.” I thought, “Thank God that will never be me.”
The questions swirl and swirl, and while immeasurable pain remains, I have achieved some peace in the realization that despite his inner turmoil, Ian knew how deeply he was loved, and we knew how deeply he loved us in return. It is that simple. To quiet the questions, I have found peace in this reality. To do something with my pain, however, I will shine a desperately needed spotlight on suicide awareness and prevention.
I was asked by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (www.afsp.org) to speak in honor of Ian at one of their 350 Out of the Darkness Walks this past October. I raised funds in Ian’s name to benefit the AFSP, and my family and I joined over 200,000 walkers around the country. Together, beginning by simply talking about suicide, it is our mission to end the epidemic that is suicide.
A news clip from our walk is here:
My family has also created the Ian Prout Forever Memorial Fund, benefitting the AFSP, which will exist in perpetuity to honor Ian and to help so many countless people in need. For more information or to support the fund, please visit:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
This post is written by Ashely Prout, proud sister of Ian. The article is written for Ashely and Ian's Alma Mater Deerfield Academy and will be published in the Deerfield Academy Magazine.