Reba R.P.

My son Ricky loved old soul singers and looking out for the elderly in our apartment complex. He also had his struggles with depression. Back in 2014, when he was 22, I found out he suffered a serious emotional trauma. I heard him crying. I went downstairs and threw my arms around him and said, “Baby, what’s wrong?” And he said, “Why would something like this happen to me?” I went quiet, and I listened to him. Then, I told him that it was not his fault, and I was like, let me help you fight through this.

That year, he moved out and got a place with his fiancée. He wanted to be married and his fiancée was like, if you start going to counseling, I’ll marry you. So, he finally went. He was willing to do the work. He was in a really good place—talking openly, all those good things. One day, after he had a therapy session, I thought, I’ll wait until I get off of work to call him.

A couple of hours later—I remember it was 3:33—my phone rang. It was his fiancée screaming. Ricky had shot himself. I don’t know if there’s even a correct word to describe that type of pain. He was everything. To lose everything was just…everything. I thought I’d take care of burying my son, and then I’d be joining him soon.

But his fiancée took a pregnancy test— it was positive. I knew that I was going to have to stay alive. I was going to have to fight through this for my grandson. With him, I was now going to have a physical part of Ricky with me. So, I got into therapy immediately. And I’m still in therapy.

Before the life I lead now as a mental health therapist, I was a corrections officer. I had been accosted several times because of my job and ended up purchasing a firearm for protection. But the loss of my son had become too overwhelming. It was literally killing me on the inside. I was waiting for the arrival of my grandson, yet, I didn’t see how I was going to live. So, I gave my firearm to my best friend to keep in her possession until I had received enough counseling to feel strong enough to bring it back home. Eventually, I did.

I still keep that .380 pistol—but it has a gun lock and is inside a safe. I keep it locked away not just for my grandson Jackson, but for myself, too. Because you’ve got to protect not just from what’s outside, but from what’s inside, too.

The woman I’ve become today—I’m a fighter. I fight for suicide prevention, because I wanted to die myself. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t have those thoughts. In the past, when someone would die by gun suicide, and if we heard about it on television or we read about it, we would always assume that it was a Caucasian person. But as of late, the African American suicide rates are rising higher. I wanted to make sure we talked more about this.

I have my grandson now, I have to fight to live for him. And in the process, it’s helping me help others fight to live as well.


The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline provides 24/7 free and confidential support to people in suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, text or call 988, or chat at