Ron Pappalardo brought a painful and yet important message to students at Onondaga County Community College today. He told the over 100 students that gathered in the Storer Auditorium about his 17-year-old son who committed suicide.
Pappalardo has written a book about his experience called "Reconciled by the Light, The After Death Letters From A Teen Suicide, A True Story."
Pappalardo hopes that he can save lives by talking honestly about the issue with college students.
"When you're honest with young people, they want to open up, they want to talk to you - they're looking for somebody they can trust," said Pappalardo.
Pappalardo said people who make threats or often reference their own death may be showing warning signs. Counseling can help and so can support from family or friends. one of OCC student Michael Cleveland was one of the first to ask Pappalardo a question. One of Cleveland's friends committed suicide in high school and Cleveland has always wished he could have done more. After hearing more about the warning signs and ways to treat depression, Cleveland said talking with Pappalardo was eye opening.
"I guess I didn't really know how to think through that as a kid. I just had the internet, I didn't really have someone who went through it - and as a parent, you can see how it would affect the immediate family and that was a big open-up for me," said Cleveland.
Cleveland and several other students said the presentation would help them talk with their friends in the future if the subject of suicide came up.
"Now someone back there, now they can help someone. They will see that and know what to say," said Cleveland
It is difficult for Pappalardo to talk about his son's death - but he says he's grateful for the chance to help others.
"I know there are people, young people and old people who are on the planet right now, who wouldn't be if I hadn't talked to them," said Pappalardo.
Student life can be extremely difficult, and when compounded with family issues and sleep deprivation, depression can be the result.
Pappalardo said regular sleep and exercise can help students in stressful situations keep a clear head.
The American Association of Suicidology estimates that 1 out of every 12 students attempt suicide each year.