Student shares his story after loss of best friend
by Onize Ohikere
It was 2:30 a.m. on April 9, 2013, and Taylor Peterson was still asleep. It was just an hour before he had to wake up and get ready for work when his phone rang. The caller ID showed it was Marc Anderson, his best friend. When he answered the call, Marc’s brother was on the other end. He had bad news: Marc had shot himself.
“That was the single hardest moment of my life,” Peterson said.
Peterson, mass communications senior and local celebrity (Pike of Big 98.7) had been best friends with Anderson since junior high school. He remembers in high school—when everyone else was out drinking and doing crazy stuff—he and Anderson and another friend would hang out down in the basement at Anderson’s home.
“We’d make funny videos and cry laughing until 4 in the morning,” Peterson said.
Anderson, 23, was a sophomore at M State majoring in computer science.
Like many who take their own life, Anderson had shown some signs of his intentions. Four years before committing suicide, Anderson told his friend it was something he had thought about.
Peterson also said he noticed some changes in Anderson’s behavior and said he did not seem as happy as he used to be.
After attending a basketball game with Peterson and some other friends in March 2013, Anderson had mentioned he was going to kill himself. Peterson thought he said that in jest because of how the game turned out, but thought it wise to check.
“I called him to make sure he was okay, and he was,” he said.
Two weeks later, he committed suicide.
“It was very hard,” Peterson said. “My initial reaction to it was pure shock.”
It may have been hard to get through it all, but Peterson said it was even more painful to watch Anderson’s family pull through his death.
Supportive friends, pastors and counselors are some of the resources that Peterson said helped him and his friends through the grieving process.
Peterson said that it was not until after Anderson’s death that he found out his friend had sought help when he was 17.
“He told his parents that he had depression and he wanted to see somebody, so he had started to see a psychiatrist,” Peterson said.
While Anderson’s death took an emotional toll on his loved ones, his passing was used to bring about good in the community. The spring after his death, Anderson’s parents set up The Marc Anderson Scholarship in his honor. The scholarship targets high school seniors at Dilworth – Glyndon -Felton High School, where Anderson attended.
When Anderson’s parents approached Peterson and some other friends of Anderson about raising money for the scholarship, they knew just what to do.
“We thought it would be a good idea to start a golf tournament since it would be a fun way to raise money for the scholarship and also get everybody together to remember him,” Peterson said.
Peterson said they were able to raise over $3,000 from the tournament on July 12, 2014. Some of the money went towards the scholarship while the rest was donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
According to the American College Health Association, the suicide rate among young adults ages 15-24 has tripled since the 1950s, and suicide is currently the second most common cause of death among college students.
“We are all just more concerned about suicide now and doing something about it,” Peterson said. “We have taken part in Out of the Darkness Walks and have made ourselves more aware on mental health and suicide.”
Taylor Yliniemi, another friend of Anderson’s, agrees.
“It helps us do some good out of a bad situation,” Yliniemi said. “What we are doing may help someone who really needs it.”
On MSUM’s campus, wellness educators have organized a Suicide Awareness Day for the past two years, the most recent was last Wednesday, Sept. 10.
“We want to raise awareness and reduce the stigma regarding suicide,” Lynn Peterson, coordinator of the wellness educators’ program, said.
Lynn Peterson also said that while Hendrix Clinic offers psychiatric and mental health services to students, FirstLink, a nonprofit human service agency in Fargo, also offers services like a 24-hour suicide lifeline, suicide education outreach, suicide prevention training, among others, to the community.
The 24-hour helpline is 2-1-1, or 701-235-7335.
With the football season already kicking in, Taylor Peterson’s loss is undeniable as he recalls how they used to watch football games together and how it would not be possible this year.
“I still think about it everyday,” Peterson said. “Anyone who’s gone through it would tell you that not a day goes by when you don’t think about it.”
Being personally affected by a suicide, Peterson has advice for those who may be having suicidal thoughts.
“There’s absolutely people that want you here,” he said. “As hard as it is, it’s so important to talk to somebody close to you about it because if nobody knows, nobody can help you.”