The book “Courage to
Live” helped Carol Graham deal with her own suicidal
thoughts after Jeffrey, left, was killed in combat in
Iraq and Kevin took his life at age 21.
See information about the book below
If you need (or someone you know
needs) help, Mark and Carol Graham highly recommend
Words Can Work,
DVDs and booklets address topics ranging from underage
drinking and bullying to depression and sexual health.
These resources are viewed and discussed by young people
and by adults in health and wellness programs
internationally in schools, parenting and healthcare
organizations, and corporations.
The Courage To Live Workbook
by K. Tullis
When it hurts to live, it helps to
Those needing immediate
support can call the suicide
prevention hotline at 719 596-5433
For more information
on Jeffrey and Kevin Graham Support Services, or
to seek help through the program, go to
call 719 573-7447.
The Pikes Peak region is getting
a significant boost in the fight against suicide, thanks to
a couple that has dedicated itself to the cause after one
son took his life in 2003 and another died in combat about
seven months later.
Retired Maj. Gen. Mark Graham, commander of Fort Carson from
2007 to 2009, and his wife, Carol, were back in Colorado
Springs Thursday from their home near Fayetteville, N.C., to
launch Jeffrey and Kevin Graham Support Services, which will
operate under the Suicide Prevention Partnership of the
Pikes Peak Region umbrella.
The program has three key elements: a workbook-based segment
for anyone who has contemplated or attempted suicide;
12-step support groups modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous;
and a group for family and friends to teach them about
mental illness and depression, intervention and other
aspects of helping a loved one struggling with suicidal
“We’re hoping this can become a national model,” said Janet
Karnes, executive director of the Suicide Prevention
Colorado historically ranks among the top 10 states in the
U.S. in the number of completed suicides, and although El
Paso County’s rate isn’t the highest in the state, well over
100 residents take their lives each year.
And that’s only a small chapter in a much bigger story,
Karnes said. For every completed suicide attempt, there are
numerous attempts: 25, by many accounts, she said, and up to
200 among young adults, according to a 2009 report from the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“In the last two years in El Paso County alone, there were
easily 6,400 attempts, if you go by the number of completed
suicides,” Karnes said. “It’s massive.”
And someone who has attempted suicide before is likely to
“That’s the group we are trying to touch,” an emotional Mark
Graham told a crowd of about 100 supporters. “We don’t want
this to happen to any more families.”
The heart of the program for people who have attempted or
contemplated suicide is a workbook called “Courage to Live,”
written by Tennessee psychiatrist Kenneth F. Tullis, who
tried to take his life seven times. The book, which includes
writing and reading exercises, helped Carol Graham deal with
her own suicidal thoughts after Kevin took his life at age
21 and Jeffrey was killed in combat in Iraq.
“This little workbook — I’ve kept it with my Bible since he
gave it to me, because it reminds me to slow down and take
things one step at time,” she said. “It gives me a
structure, a model, sort of a design for living. It gave me
a way to survive the loss of our boys, just to be able to
take it one day at a time — one hour, one minute at a time.”
Another workbook, “Words Can Work,” will be used to help
family and friends learn more about depression and suicide.
“When we talk to families, they helped us realize that even
other children in the family are afraid to be left alone
with someone who’s attempted,” Karnes said. “It impacts the
entire family. We need to take a holistic approach.”
The Grahams met Karnes when they lived in Colorado Springs,
and they’d been funding the Suicide Prevention Partnership’s
crisis hotline, which was named after their sons. When they
offered to continue funding the hotline, Karnes told them
her nonprofit had a bigger need for an ongoing peer-support
program that could augment any therapy or other help that
attempters and their families receive.
“When I researched how to work with attempters, a lot of
papers say they don’t want to call a hotline because they
don’t want the police to show up at their door,” Karnes
said. “They just want to talk to others who had had those
Carol Graham knows that families need the support. After the
death of her “tender-hearted” son Kevin, she felt guilt and
shame that she hadn’t done enough to make sure he got help
for his depression. With Jeffrey’s death, she was celebrated
as the mother of a hero, because he died in the course of
saving his platoon.
“I was a mother who failed to get my son help. Then, I was
the mother of a hero,” she said. “We were gold-star parents,
but it was weird, because we felt just the opposite.”
But that little boost in recognition gave them the impetus
to tackle suicide, she said, and they’ve set up suicide
prevention on college campuses and taken on speaking
engagements throughout the U.S.
Coincidentally, the launch of the new program in Colorado
Springs took place on what would have been Kevin’s 31st
“It’s a real blessing for us that something like this can be
launched on Nov. 15,” she said.