T.J. Sefcik

Wendy Sefcik

Stories From Main Street: NJ Mom Works To Prevent Suicide After Son’s Death

March 31, 2019 - 4:00 pm

TOWACO, N.J. (WCBS 880) — A New Jersey mother is on a crusade to help young people who may be contemplating suicide after losing her own child in 2010.

“We never really thought about suicide or thought it would apply to our family at all and then eight years ago, on Dec. 1, 2010, we lost our 16-year-old son T.J.,” says Wendy Sefcik, of Towaco.

As WCBS 880’s Sean Adams explains in this week’s Stories from Main Street, suicide is a sensitive topic, but often the problem is more pervasive than people think.

“Every year, we’re losing over 47,000 people in this country to suicide,” Sefcik explains. “Globally, every 40 seconds, someone dies by suicide.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for our youth, she notes. It’s also the 10th leading cause of death for every age group.

Sefcik says the numbers are astounding and before her son’s death, she had never known much about the issue affecting hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

Now, the mother of three has developed a presentation that she brings to community events – but says she didn’t want it to be a “sob story.”

“Our program is called ‘Remembering T.J. a story of teen depression and lessons in hope,’” she says.

The program involves a presentation and T.J.’s story, as well as the Sefciks' experience, in order to help attendees better identify and deal with mental health situations for themselves and others.

One of the most important lessons they teach is how to identity the warning signs of suicide.

“This was a 16-year-old young man who had always been really respectful and fun-loving and close to his family, starting to fight with his brothers, you know, somebody would say something at the dinner table, he would explode,” she notes.

Sefcik says the erratic behavior is one of the key warning signs to look for and adds that when behaviors change, parents should talk to their children and try to empathize.

“When your kid does start to open up, don't try to automatically fix it,” she advises. “As parents we always want to start fixing rather let them just talk.”

Sefcik has spoken to more than 30,000 people and continues to share her son's story with the hope of saving lives.

“I do believe that T.J. is pushing us to tell his story, to share his story to help other people because in life on this earth, he was that type of a person. He wanted to always help people and I believe he's still doing that,” she says.

If you are feeling upset, anxious, lonely or stressed and are contemplating suicide, you are not alone. Call the suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-272-8255.