HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — As we approach the one-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, a dark reality looms. More and more victims will barely make it out alive. Sadly, others won’t make it at all. It’s created a mental and physical struggle for families.
“He was just a joy. He loved life, being outside,” said mom Kristen Kuczo, of Fairfield. “You knew he was smart but he’d never make you feel dumb,” Kristen’s husband Jim Kuczo added about their teen son.
A life showing so much promise for a bright future.
“When we hear all these people saying too that he was the light and he was funny and his smile lit up a room, we know people probably didn’t know how he was feeling,” Kristen added.
The dark reality, that ultimately won.
“We’re in the world’s worst club right now, and we don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” Jim said through tears.
Jim and Kristen’s son, 17-year-old Kevin Kuczo, the A student, athlete and beloved teen was suffering and he took his own life on Feb. 4. He left his parents devastated, lost and desperate to get their message out.
“If we can do anything to honor Kevin. Try to help other children,” Kristen said.
Kevin battled depression but he hid it well, behind a smile and bright personality, until he couldn’t anymore, amid a global pandemic.
“Football was canceled,” Kristen said. Forced to isolate and learn from home.
“All of a sudden, he didn’t turn in this assignment, F. That wasn’t Kevin. He was in four AP classes,” Jim added.
The Kuczos knew they were in trouble and sought professional help, sadly it wasn’t enough to undo the dark thoughts that consumed their son.
St. Vincent’s Psychiatrist Dr. Andre Newfield said teen suicide is a major concern right now.
“During the time they should be leaving the nest, they’re sort of couped up and where does their independence start when we have this pandemic interrupting all of that?” Dr. Newfield said.
He said the challenge is distinguishing the grief of a healthy person, saddened by the changes in the world right now, versus someone like Kevin who worked to disguise depression, but lost control in the pandemic.
“That’s where I think discussions are really important to make sure you’re checking in with people and understanding their perception and their beliefs and their understanding of what they’re experiencing,” Dr. Newfield added.
He said it’s never been more important for loved ones to face the red flags head-on and as quickly as possible.
“I have a teenager at home, so I have these very real conversations.” Dr. Newfield said. “Some of his friends have had suicidal thoughts, so asking ‘are you having those thoughts, are you thinking of ending your life?’ It’s really important to know if your loved one is getting to that level and if they need immediate help.”
He said parents can seek help but also encourage their kids to meet virtually with friends or in person where it’s safe to keep them involved.
“Whatever Kevin had, it was compounded by isolation and COVID,” Jim said. So now the Kuczo’s message for other teens?
“If there’s someone you didn’t want to sit next to at the lunch table, invite them in,” Jim suggested. “I think if we can all start by being kinder, more compassionate, more gentle, more inclusive.”
As they begin their healing and try to prevent this from happening to others, they’re encouraging teens to get help and get “everybody talking.”
This also happens to be the song Kevin last requested his friend’s band cover, one week before his death and they did it for him. He never got to hear it, but you’re hearing it now recorded in his name, for the cause, to raise awareness.
If you need help there are a number of hotlines and resources for your family and remember, you are not alone in this fight, not even close.
- CT Dept. of Mental Health and Addiction
- 211 hotline (or 1-800-203-1234) This line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- United Way of CT – Mental Health Care, Youth and Young Adults – If You are Feeling Suicidal or You are Concerned About Someone Who May Be Contemplating Suicide: Inside Connecticut: Dial 2-1-1 to speak to a trained crisis worker.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.