Black Maps


This is my uncle Russell Klatt. I never got to know him real well. After graduating college he moved around a bunch doing awesome things. I know at one point when I was a kid he was working with a wildlife group to study and protect an endangered owl species. He used to send photos to my mom. They were really cool.

I know he spent time living in really cool places. He spent a couple of year in Hawaii, which I understand is not a bad gig. My grandmother took me and my sister to visit him when he was living in Roslyn, Washington; or as you may know it Cicely, Alaska the setting for Northern Exposure. Somewhere, in analog form, I have a picture in front of that Roslyn Café mural. It was a cool town and I had a good time there.

What I think about most whenever we talk about Russell was his love for animals. As with all my mom’s brothers, he always had a dog. The last one he had he came across on the side of the road, with his head bashed in. Russell never thought twice and immediately took that dog to the vet and then took him in. From that moment the dog knew he was in good hands. They loved each other and it was fantastic.

I write all this because last week Russell took his own life, and I’m trying to make sense of it. When my mom called me to tell me I could her how upset she was, and I hate seeing or hearing my mom upset. Then I thought about my grandmother coming out. I’m really close to my grandma and I’ve never seen her sad and I didn’t want to. So I’m here with no answers, as we often are with suicide, and I’m attempting to use writing to help me.

But I also write this because I believe we need to have more open dialogue about mental illness. There’s still a stigma surrounding it and I think that is causing too many problems. I don’t know if talking could have saved my uncle, but it couldn’t hurt. So I beg everyone, don’t hesitate to seek help. You are loved. I like to think of it like this: consider your loved ones, you want them to be happy right? Well, that’s what they want for you too. So talk to them when you need to.

Your spouse is there in sickness and in health. Your friends always have your back. If you want to talk to me, I will answer every email, I’ve been trying to get a job with Mental Health Centers of Denver and they have a dedicated crisis center if you would prefer to talk to a professional. or 1-844-493-TALK (8255). If you’re not in Colorado: or 1-800-273-8255.

I don’t want anyone to have to go through this. I don’t want any more sad grandmothers. You are not alone. You have many options. We are all stronger together.

You are loved.


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