Disclaimer: Suicide is an incredibly sensitive topic, one that can evoke a range of emotions. We understand that certain parts of this article may be difficult to read, as they delve into descriptive details that paint a stark and unfiltered picture of the challenges individuals facing mental health issues endure. However, it is precisely because of the gravity of this issue that we believe it is important to confront these realities head-on. By shining a light on the harsh truths, our intention is to foster a deeper understanding and spark meaningful conversations about mental health. Together, we can create a world where support, empathy, and compassion prevail.
CLEVELAND, OH - During the observance of National Suicide Prevention Week (September 10-16), it is imperative to shed light on a poignant narrative. In a manner reminiscent of Notre Dame College's impactful display of a mangled vehicle on their campus lawn, which aimed to raise awareness about the grave consequences of drunk driving, personal stories have the power to resonate deeply and foster understanding. By sharing a real-life account that hits close to home, we hope to evoke empathy and encourage meaningful conversations surrounding these critical issues. In this endeavor, we embark on a profound exploration of Laylani Lee Germann's deeply emotional narrative. Her untimely decision to end her own life on June 28, 2022, leaves an indelible mark on our hearts. Through this article, our intention is to pay tribute to Laylani's memory, ignite conversations about suicide prevention, and underscore the urgent necessity for unwavering support and empathetic understanding for individuals grappling with mental health challenges.
Laylani's journey began on August 31, 2006, when she entered the world as a beacon of light and creativity. Her mother, Patricia Germann, describes her daughter as an extraordinary individual from the start. Laylani possessed a unique blend of independence, humor, and artistic talent that set her apart. Whether it was through drawing, painting, or music, Laylani's abilities were awe-inspiring. She had an innate ability to think outside the box and express herself creatively. Patricia cherishes the bond they shared, emphasizing that Laylani was not just her daughter but also her best friend.
"Laylani was the most amazing person I have ever known," Patricia shares, her voice filled with love and sorrow. "From the moment she was born, she was different. She was my first-born child. Always independent, funny, silly, artistic", she added. "She had amazing artistic ability, whether it was drawing, painting, music. She wrote music and read music. She was quirky, funky. Just so talented, and I’m just so happy that God gave me her as a daughter."
Laylani's talents knew no bounds. She excelled in every endeavor she pursued, leaving a lasting impression on those around her. Her artistic abilities were nothing short of extraordinary, and she quickly mastered playing the guitar after just a few lessons. Laylani's creative thinking and unique perspective allowed her to create art that resonated deeply with others. She had a knack for pushing boundaries and challenging conventions, as evidenced by her decision to create a square snowman out of clay in elementary school while others stuck to the traditional round shape.
"Laylani was good at literally everything she tried," Patricia recalls, with both pride and grief in her words. "She was an incredible artist”, she added.
Laylani cherished her relationship with her stepdad in a truly special way. Their bond went beyond the ordinary; it was a deep connection forged through shared loves. Laylani introduced her stepdad to the world of music, and together, they embarked on memorable adventures like guitar shopping, where Laylani helped him pick out the perfect instrument. In an endearing twist, Laylani even attempted to teach him how to play the guitar. Their connection was a testament to Laylani's nurturing and giving nature.
However, beneath Laylani's vibrant exterior, she battled internal struggles that took a toll on her mental health. Patricia noticed early on that her daughter had difficulty dealing with negative experiences, often internalizing them deeply. As someone who battles bipolar disorder herself, Patricia recognized similar signs in Laylani. Despite facing hardships together, including a period of homelessness, their bond grew stronger. Laylani became Patricia's source of strength and inspiration, pushing her to be the best mother she could be. Their relationship was built on love, resilience, and unwavering support.
"I was a teen mom and didn't have a mother of my own that could be an example of how to be a mother," Patricia revealed, "My dad raised me, and he just told me to be the mother I wished I had, and so I did that for her. She was my best friend. We even had our own secret handshake. She was the one that I always wanted to spend time with. I became a better person because of her."
Laylani's journey towards self-discovery and empowerment extended beyond her artistic endeavors. She also found herself participating in the Runway Model Challenge, an event organized by Darlene James, the owner and founder of Darlafoxx. Despite her initial shyness and hesitation, Laylani was encouraged by Darlene to embrace the opportunity. Darlene vividly recalls visiting Laylani at her home, a gesture reserved solely for Laylani, to reassure her and ignite her confidence. In Darlene's own words, "I just felt a specialness in Laylani. There was something just so special about her." In a couple of shows, Laylani took to the runway, leaving a lasting impression on those who witnessed her transformation. One particular moment that stood out was when Laylani chose to embody a butterfly during the Wildcard scene. With an outfit lovingly crafted by her mother, Patricia, Laylani captivated the audience as she gracefully moved to music of her choice, showcasing her own choreography. As she unveiled her wings, the entire room erupted in applause, a testament to Laylani's ability to captivate hearts and inspire others through her unique spirit and creative expression.
Despite Laylani's remarkable achievements and the love surrounding her, she faced immense challenges that impacted her mental well-being. Patricia recalled moments when she noticed changes in Laylani's behavior and mood, indicating that she was grappling with her own demons. Laylani often isolated herself, seeking solace in her art and music. Patricia reflects on those times, wondering if she should have reached out more, offered more support, or engaged in deeper conversations. Hindsight bringing regret and uncertainty.
"I think she tried to protect me from knowing how sad and how hurt she was," Patricia shares, "She didn’t want me to worry about her."
One significant event forever altered Laylani's life and contributed to her ongoing battle with mental health. She found herself in a toxic relationship with a boyfriend who subjected her to emotional and physical abuse. The trauma inflicted upon her left deep scars, both physically and emotionally. To make matters worse, this former boyfriend maliciously exposed her life online, spreading a combination of private moments, lies and rumors and publishing it publicly through social circles and her school. This cruel act led to other students calling her hurtful names like 'slut' and 'whore,' casting her deeper into a distressing mental state. Recognizing the severity of the situation, Patricia sought counseling and therapy for her daughter. Antidepressants were prescribed to help manage Laylani's mental health, although Patricia questions whether they truly addressed the underlying pain or merely masked it temporarily.
As Patricia shared, Laylani's biological father departed, leaving Patricia and her daughter to navigate life on their own. They faced a period of homelessness, enduring the hardships that accompanied such circumstances. Laylani yearned for a connection with her absent father, despite never truly experiencing it. However, a stepfather entered their lives just before Laylani turned four, bringing both blessings and challenges. Being the oldest child, Laylani felt the weight of expectations upon her young shoulders. The pressure to excel became a constant presence in her life, often leaving her feeling as though she fell short of those lofty standards.
In the midst of Laylani's struggles, Patricia remained a pillar of strength and support. She tirelessly sought out resources and support systems to aid her daughter's journey towards healing. Signature Health and Applewood Centers became integral parts of their lives, providing counseling services tailored to Laylani's needs. Patricia believed that these interventions would guide Laylani towards a brighter future, helping her navigate the complexities of her mental health challenges.
"Laylani seemed to be doing well with Applewood," Patricia shared, "She seemed to like her therapist and get along well and seemed to be opening up more."
Tragically, Laylani's story took a devastating turn. A week before her death, she reached out to her biological father, hoping for a connection that had been absent throughout her life. Disappointed by his response, Laylani's pain intensified. On the morning of June 28th, Patricia woke up with an inexplicable feeling that something was wrong. Little did she know that her worst fears would soon become a heartbreaking reality.
In the early hours of that day, Patricia Germann made a devastating discovery that no parent should ever have to face. She found Laylani hanging from her ceiling fan, having taken her own life. The sight was heart-wrenching and left Patricia in a state of shock and disbelief. The pain she experienced in that moment is unimaginable, as she grappled with the reality of losing her beloved daughter in such a tragic manner.
The aftermath of this traumatic event was filled with profound grief and an overwhelming sense of loss. Patricia had to summon every ounce of strength to react swiftly, seeking help and support from authorities and loved ones. The immediate aftermath of a suicide is a tumultuous time, marked by confusion, anguish, and a deep longing for answers that may never come.
The impact of finding Laylani in such a heartbreaking state is something Patricia carries with her every day. The image of her lifeless body remains etched in her memory, haunting her thoughts, her dreams, and fueling her determination to raise awareness about the gravity of mental health challenges and the urgent need for support and understanding.
In the emotional suicide note Laylani left behind, she bared her soul, expressing the depths of her pain and weariness. She acknowledged the impact her decision would have on her loved ones, writing, "I was so tired, and I’m so sorry." Laylani's words revealed her longing for an end to the overwhelming pain she had endured, apologizing for her choice, and sharing her desire for relief. She wrote, "There was so much I wanted to do and see but I couldn’t see this kind of pain ever ending though. I wanted to turn sixteen too, but growing up scares me."
Amidst her struggles, Laylani poured out her love and gratitude for her mother, assuring her that she recognized her strength and unwavering support. She expressed her heartfelt appreciation, saying, "You’re so strong, but promise that you’ll always be there for (my siblings). Words can’t describe how thankful I am to have a mother like you. You’re such an amazing mom, and I love you so much." Laylani also took a moment to express her deep appreciation for her stepfather, a man she truly knew as her only dad, thanking him for his presence in her life. She wrote, "Dad, thank you for raising me and being there anytime I needed you. You’re a great man and an amazing father."
Laylani's note laid bare her sincere efforts to hold on despite the immense pain she carried. She conveyed her profound love for her family and acknowledged the heart-wrenching loss she would experience by not being able to witness their lives unfold. Laylani's words echoed with remorse as she wrote, "I really did try to stay for as long as I could, but it was just too much. I hope you all know that I love you guys so much.”
In her final note, amidst her regrets and pain, Laylani expressed a longing for one more father-daughter day, a testament to the profound love and appreciation she held for the man who had become her father in every meaningful sense. Her stepdad held a special place in her heart, a place that remains a powerful part of her enduring legacy.
These heartfelt excerpts from Laylani's note offer a glimpse into her emotional turmoil and the depth of her love for her family. They serve as a very real reminder of the profound impact that mental health challenges can have on individuals, underscoring the importance of understanding, compassion, and support in preventing such tragic outcomes.
Patricia Germann's message is a heartfelt plea to those who may be contemplating a similar path. She implores young individuals to understand the concept that energy is not created nor destroyed, but merely transferred. In the midst of their struggles, Patricia wants them to recognize that when one self-harms or makes an irreversible choice, the painful mental energy they carry does not vanish; it is, in fact, transferred onto those who love them most. She speaks from the depths of her own experience, emphasizing that this transferred energy compounds with the grief already felt by loved ones, making their emotional burden unbearable. It's a painful but necessary reminder that our actions have a profound ripple effect on the lives of those who care about us.
Patricia's fervent hope is that young ones find the courage, or a sliver of some of the strength it would take to write a goodbye note to their loved ones, to instead talk about their feelings, seek support from those who care, or simply share their emotions with someone willing to listen. In doing so, they can prevent the transfer of pain and begin the journey toward healing, both physically and emotionally, for themselves and those closest to them.
Since Laylani's passing, Patricia has embarked on a journey of healing and advocacy. She recognizes the importance of sharing their story to prevent other families from experiencing the same devastating loss. Patricia has actively sought support through group therapy sessions at Cornerstone of Hope, where she found solace and formed deep connections with others who have endured similar tragedies. Together, they navigate the complex emotions associated with losing a loved one to suicide.
"I don't want my daughter to be just another statistic," Patricia expressed with determination. "I want her story out there so that it can maybe help someone else. I feel like sometimes you're given a choice to either hide in your shell or share your story."
Patricia's experience has profoundly influenced her perception of mental health education and support systems within our community. She believes that the current approach falls short, failing to address the unique challenges faced by today's youth in the digital age. Social media platforms have become breeding grounds for cyberbullying and toxic behavior, amplifying the struggles young individuals face. Patricia advocates for a more comprehensive and tailored approach to mental health education, ensuring that young people receive the support they need to thrive.
Patricia Germann with her Daughter Laylani and Husband James
As we observe Suicide Prevention and Awareness Week, it is crucial to remember that each life lost to suicide represents a deep tragedy. Laylani's story serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of early intervention, open communication, and destigmatizing mental health struggles. Together, we can create a world where no one feels alone in their pain, where resources and support systems are readily available to those who need them most.
Patricia Germann would like to express her heartfelt gratitude to Cornerstone of Hope, a nonprofit Comprehensive Bereavement Support Center that has played a significant role in her healing journey. She encourages anyone who has lost a loved one and is struggling with their grief to consider reaching out to Cornerstone of Hope as a potential source of support.
Cornerstone of Hope provides compassionate care and comprehensive bereavement support to individuals of all ages who have experienced the death of a loved one. Their team of licensed clinicians and Master's level interns, under the supervision of professional staff, brings extensive expertise in working with grief and trauma.
"This is a club that nobody wants to be in, but if you find yourself in this club, it’s good to know that there are always people here that can help", said Julia Ellifritt, Education Director for Cornerstone of Hope and a dedicated grief counselor for over 30 years. The organization recognizes that the suicide rate in a family can increase once there's been one loss, and with their program, they believe that "Postvention is the best prevention." Julia affirmed, "The cure that we give can help to prevent further tragedies.".
Beyond grief support, Cornerstone of Hope extends its services to individuals and families facing various life challenges, including abuse, divorce, anxiety, depression, addiction, and trauma. Through individual counseling, marriage and family counseling, groups for children, teens, and adults, in-school services, and community trainings, Cornerstone of Hope offers hope and guidance to those navigating difficult circumstances.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to a helpline or mental health professional in your country. You are not alone, and help is available.
Cornerstone of Hope (Local): (216) 524-3787
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA): 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Crisis Text Line (USA): Text HOME to 741741
Samaritans (UK and Ireland): 116 123
Lifeline (Australia): 13 11 14