An LA mother copes with daughter’s suicide

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The Centers for Disease Control keeps track of suicide in the U.S., and its numbers are sobering.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people. A 2009 survey found that one high school student out of seven had thought seriously about suicide in the previous year.

One mother from Los Angeles whose teenage daughter committed suicide told her story to KPCC.

Talking about suicide can save lives, so Marilyn Nobori talks about her daughter.

“She was involved in school groups, church groups, a mathematician, played taiko, sang in praise band and loved anime," Marilyn Nobori said. "She had good grades. She was a perfectionist.”

When she became a teenager, something shifted. “She became moody. We talked about it with the professionals and non-professional adults in her life. But the consensus was she was not depressed, just a quiet normal teenager. We did not know about suicide.”

There were signs, like a kind of tunnel vision. When Aiko played her flute, she heard only her own internal criticism — and not the accolades from friends.

A Stanford anthology of the best student work published a short story she’d written. Her story was about suicide.

Catherine Aiko Nobori hung herself at home. She was 14.

“I could tell you in great detail the afternoon I found her," Marilyn Nobori said, "because they are burned in my memory. Finding her. Running to call 911. Cutting her down. Doing CPR. The paramedics, the police.”

Marilyn Nobori says for years, she hoped she’d wake up from the nightmare of losing her only child. “Everything was veiled in a fog, disjointed, slow — very, very slow.”

She tried to make sense of things that never would make sense. "I remember a friend leaving a simple spiral notebook on my doorstep. I began writing Aiko. And having conversations with her. I remember putting pictures all over the house.

"Aiko and I loved Harry Potter," Marilyn Nobori said. "And in that story the dead travel picture to picture and talk to the living. I remember searching. Reading her notes, emails, looking for something. Going over everything we had done since her birth. Looking for a reason."

Suicide is one of the three leading causes of death for people aged 15 to 25. Untreated depression is a major cause.

Many experts say the key to preventing suicide is intervening at the right moment. An acute suicidal phase will often pass if the person who’s suffering talks with a family member, a friend or even a stranger on the other end of a suicide prevention hotline.

It has been nine years since Catherine Aiko died. Her mother Marilyn Nobori said she still suffers tremendous grief — especially on milestone days, like the day when her daughter would have graduated high school or turned 21.

But she says her own journey of grief has merged with her journey of life. "There’s still a hole in my heart," Marilyn Nobori said. "There are still tears and there are still moments of guilt and sorrow. But life again has joy, has purpose and wholeness. ... I have learned the best memorial I can give to Aiko is to choose hope, to choose life."

Marilyn Nobori also talks openly about her daughter at suicide prevention seminars and bereavement workshops in hopes of keeping another young person alive.