Life in the St. Clair home forever changed a few short months ago when 14-year-old Branden committed suicide.
The date was Feb. 27, 2019.
The WCHS freshman appeared to be enjoying his youth as a member of the track team with a solid group of friends. He didn’t display any obvious warning signs, according to his father. “We’re still not sure why Branden did what he did,” said father John St. Clair, indicating his son didn’t leave a note. “He seemed like a happy kid and we were a very happy family. I chalk up what he did as a very bad decision in the moment, a decision he can’t take back.”
Branden was found in his bedroom by his father and sister. Family members continue to work through their emotions.
“After this happened, we all slept in the living room,” said John, who said he hasn’t really discussed the possibility of moving to a different house with his wife and daughter. “We haven’t gone back into his room at all. I took out the bed the next day, which is where it happened, and after I did that I shut the door and we haven’t gone back.
“My daughter’s room is right next to his. She’s just now showing an interest in even going back into her room and now she wants to rearrange all the furniture. There are still certain things we won’t do, certain songs we won’t listen to anymore. I really have no idea how I kept going.”
In hopes of preventing other families from enduring the suicide of a child, St. Clair has channeled his energy into a ministry called BEDS, which is an acronym for Branden’s complete name of Branden Edward Darce St. Clair. The ministry is located at Northgate Center and is available to those ages 12 to high school graduate. All activities are free.
Regular activities thus far include movie night with popcorn on Saturdays, and karate lessons and Zumba classes during the week.
But the focus is on providing meaningful workshops for suicide prevention and awareness, and workshops on overcoming depression, anxiety, and self-harm.
“What sparked this is what happened to me afterwards on social media,” said St. Clair, referring to the days after his son's suicide. “I had never done any type of social media before so I started a Facebook page and invited nine people with friend requests. Within 10 days, I had 900 friends and within two weeks I had 25 to 35 people asking me to post their stories. I’ve heard from so many kids who have attempted suicide or who are severely depressed. It’s hard to believe.”
St. Clair said he realizes not all of the stories may be true and some kids may just be yearning for attention. But he says the numbers are so staggering, they can’t be ignored.
“Even if you took 50 percent of the claims away, there would still be 372 kids who tell me they’ve tried to commit suicide over the past year,” said St. Clair. “Why are they doing this? Why are they cutting themselves? Why are they harming themselves?”
St. Clair says BEDS will serve as a sort of middle man to provide a quick assessment and point youth in the right direction. He says he has applied for nonprofit status but his request is still being processed.
All money to support BEDS is generated through fundraising efforts. St. Clair is hoping a three-day concert featuring over 20 bands will provide a financial boost.
The concert is taking place Aug. 9-11 at Stonewood Bluff Amphitheater on Harrison Ferry Mountain, formerly Pish La Ki. The cost is $20 a night or $50 for the entire weekend.
To find out more information, BEDS can be reached at (931) 259-4555.