WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A Sedgwick County commissioner is sharing her story about how suicide has affected her family in hopes of helping others.
She’s most recognized for her work as a Sedgwick County commissioner, but Lacey Cruse is sharing a side that many don’t know.
“Makes me incredibly sad that people feel that’s their only way out,” said Cruse.
It’s a story Cruse said she used to be ashamed of but believes it’s important to show others that they’re not alone.
“My dad came from a sort of troubling childhood himself,” said Cruse. “He described to me awhile back that as a 12-year-old kid, a police officer walked into his grade school room and said, ‘Son, your dad is no longer with us.”
Her grandfather, Edwin was only 39 years old when he died.
“My grandpa shot himself in the head in the cemetery where he’s buried in Ark City,” said Cruse.
The heartbreak for her family was something many couldn’t bare, but more anguish was right around the corner.
“About 10 years later, my uncle at the age of 17, shot himself in the stomach and died four hour later in surgery,” said Cruse.
The death of Grandpa Edwin and Uncle Bill lead to Cruse’s family splitting up for years.
Cruse said at the age of four her mom left and shortly after so did her father.
Only one family photo exists with Cruse’s parents and older brothers alongside her. Something she said took many years to cope with.
“A lot of people have these kind of crazy stories that shape us the way we are,” said Cruse. “Unless we’re able to talk about them, unless we really are able to open up and feel like someone cares, we suppress these things.”
Cruse said opening up about her life and what has happened to her family is important.
“We don’t want people to know that our lives aren’t perfect,” said Cruse. “But, everybody has a story to tell.”
Even with years of painful memories, there has been a glimmer of hope.
Nine years ago, Cruse found out her uncle’s grave didn’t have a marker. So, she helped create one and met her parents, family and friends at the site to celebrate the life of Uncle Bill and reunite as one big family again.
Cruse said she plans to continue to share her story for suicide prevention and even has a few projects in the works.
“You are worthy of love,” said Cruse. “You matter and there is someone that will help you.”
According to the 2018 Sedgwick County Suicide Prevention Coalition Annual Report, 101 suicide deaths were reported last year.
That is the highest rate on record since the county began tracking suicides back in 2001.
If you or someone you know needs help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24 hours a day:
In Sedgwick County, you can call the 24-Hour Crisis Line: