Family raises awareness on mental illness

After losing their son to suicide the Atwood family is speaking up

Kevin and Jaime Atwood will tell you it's been 83 days since they lost their son Foster Atwood to suicide. 

The 19-year-old was found in his apartment. He was a part-time college student and worked at Stashu's Pizza in Moline.

Now the family is on a mission to spread awareness, saying there aren't always clear warning signs.

"Over 44 thousand people a year are so clinically depressed that they opt to choose to take their own life. I never thought my son would be one of them," said Kevin.

Kevin said before their son died, things were "looking up." His son was a huge Chicago Cubs fan and saw them win the World Series in 2016. He was working and spending time with his four kids, and said it wasn't until a little over a month before Foster passed away, that things started to change.

But when the Atwood's tried to seek help for Foster, there was a wait everywhere they went. The Robert Young Center was the only facility able to give him immediate care. But they say by the time a psychologist could offer permanent care, it had been five weeks.

A day before Foster died, the East Moline teen got the call that a spot had opened up, but by then it was too late.

"He needed it five weeks earlier. He needed treatment now," said Kevin.

Now the Atwood's are starting their own initiative, Foster's Voice. They're hoping their support group can raise awareness and buy time for anyone who is on the edge.

"It's there to encourage, it's there to give hope. It's there to show compassion and to buy that person one more day if they're on the edge," said Kevin. 

In the short time since the Facebook page launched on July 30, the page has gained almosy 7,000 followers. Kevin Atwood has made it his personal mission to answer every message they receive. 

But they Atwood's say they can't do it alone, and it's time to put help on the frontlines. 

"People matter. And we're not providing the help they need," said Kevin.

The Vera French Foundation in Davenport announced Wednesday they had received a generous gift of $700,000 in bequest of Evelyn Grady. Grady's son had participated in many of the programs offered for adults at Vera French and she wanted her legacy to continue helping others. 

And while Kevin says while he's not sure if access to more mental health facilities could have guaranteed saving his son's life, he doesn't want another parent to be left asking that same question.

"I don't know. I don't know what would have happened if we would have got a chance to see a psychologist right away, but I promise you I would do anything to have found out." 

Foster's Voice will be hosting their first annual Heavenly Birthday Bash fundraiser in memory of Foster. All proceeds will go towards scholarships for United Township high school's educational resources for suicide awareness and prevention.

The event will take place Saturday November 4 from 5pm-9pm at CASI:Center for Active Seniors, located at 1035 W. Kimberly Rd, Davenport. 

To find out more information on the Vera French Foundation and the mental health resources they provide, or to call their 24 hour help hotline, you can visit their website here

Or if you or someone you know is suffering from mental illness you can contact the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

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