Lexington mom’s son died by suicide, shares story during Virtual Advocacy Day

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Janet Shedd's son, Tom. He took his life with a gun at 18-years-old. Courtesy: Janet Shedd

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Two-thirds of gun deaths in Kentucky are gun suicides, according to data gathered by ‘Everytown For Gun Safety,’ a group dedicated to raising awareness and ending gun violence. The group held a Virtual Advocacy Day Monday to highlight the problem.

One of the speakers was a Lexington mother whose son took his life with a gun.

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“My son, Tom, died by suicide by gun when he was 18-years old and a senior in high school,” Janet Shedd said.

She said the pain she and others felt, and still feel, is indescribable.

“He was always a very funny, bright, energetic, charming child that was very curious about the world,” Shedd said.

She said as Tom entered his late teens, he became depressed. Shedd said he saw a therapist, took medication and was eventually hospitalized for suicidal plans.

Despite this, shortly after his 18th birthday he was allowed to buy a gun.

“He went to one gun shop and bought a shot gun. He went to another one and bought ammunition,” Shedd recalled. “He went to a field where he and his brothers and his friends had played for most of his life. He shot himself.”

It’s been five years since then and Shedd says she wants to see change in Kentucky. That’s why she, and dozens of others, joined the Lexington chapter of ‘Moms Demand Action,’ a group that’s hand-in-hand with ‘Everytown For Gun Safety.’

During its Virtual Advocacy Day Monday, the community was urged to talk openly about the issue and lawmakers were asked to pass gun reform laws.

“If mental health isn’t working, then making it harder to get a gun could save lives,” Shedd said.

66-percent of gun deaths in the state are gun suicides; that’s more than the national average, according to data collected by Everytown.

Data also shows guns are the leading cause of death among children and teens in Kentucky, and the gun homicide rate in the state increased 63% from 2010 to 2019.

Preliminary data from the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center shows fewer people under the age of 24 died by suicide in the first three quarters of 2020.

“There are a lot of Tom’s out there of all ages,” Shedd said. “They, and their family and friends, deserve and need our help.”

If you are struggling and need to talk, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255.