Our families were tragically altered by the suicide of a child seven years apart. These two devastating circumstances have brought us together with a common goal of helping to prevent youth suicide and bringing awareness of mental health illnesses.
Michael & Stacy warner, founders
On August 23rd, 2015, Mike and Stacy Warner’s 16-year-old son, Bryce, took his life. They had just dropped their daughter off at college and came home to a parent’s worst nightmare. Without consulting them, Bryce had stopped taking his anti-anxiety medication which misled him in his judgement. After Bryce died there were other teenagers who committed suicide in three surrounding school districts within a six-month time span. This was something the Warner’s never wanted any parent, sibling, grandparent, cousin, or friend to ever experience. The pain is simply gut-wrenching. Mike and Stacy knew their lives had been forever changed. The tragedy of that day could be used for good or bad. Their strong faith in Jesus Christ propelled them to help others and give God the glory for all the good they were seeing happen despite Bryce's death. They chose Hebrews 6:18-19 as their reminder that they would one day be reuinited in heaven with Bryce, but for now, they will do all they can to save others from this pain.
After Bryce’s death Mike and Stacy formed a close friendship with Mandy Hartlage. Mandy’s son William was one of Bryce’s best friends. The boys had grown up competing in track & field and cross country together which had connected the families in passing. However, now they shared something much deeper
Mandy hartlage, Co-founder
On September 8th, 2008, while at work, Mandy received a call from her 8 year old son, William, stating that he had found his thirteen year old sister in her room. Jocelyn, William’s sister had taken her life. Two days later in an ICU she was pronounced brain dead. Jocelyn’s decision came as a shock to her entire family. Her family’s first question: Why did she do this? No one ever suspected she had issues that she had been struggling with. Over the years, struggling to make sense of and deal with her own mental health issues, Mandy slowly came to the realization that there was something more going on with Jocelyn then anyone had ever suspected. She wishes she had noticed and wonders if the outcome could have been different.
Then seven years later William’s best friend, Bryce, Mike and Stacy Warner’s son, also took his life. It broke Mandy’s heart to see this family go through the pain of losing a child and to watch her son, William, deal with yet another suicide of someone he cared about. Inconceivably, these deaths 7 years apart brought these two families, who had previously just known each other in passing, into a whole new chapter. They received memberships to a private club in which they had not asked for. With the strength and the amazing tenacity of the Warner’s, Free the Mind and Anchor the Soul, non-profit was born. These two families believe strongly in breaking the stigma behind mental illness and suicide.