When Tyler Senn graduated from Brainerd High School last school year, he had a lot to look forward to. His high school career was done and he was on his way to attend fall semester at Minnesota State University, Mankato, to start the next phase of his life.
He had his whole life in front of him. Or so his friends and family thought. Tyler, 18, tragically took his own life on Nov. 8.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him or cry because of him,” Tyler’s mother, Cory Porisch of Dodge Center, said in a telephone interview. “It’s a day-to-day struggle. There are days that I cannot function. Some days I can’t get out of bed. Part of me doesn’t want to feel like this, but another part of me wants to feel this way. Remembering him brings me happiness, but it’s also painful to think of all the pain he must have been feeling.
“It was six months, on Mother’s Day, since he has passed. And on Wednesday it will be his birthday. He would have turned 19.”
Since Tyler’s death, family and friends have wanted to do something to celebrate his life and on May 21 they will do just that. A memorial event called “The Sky is the Limit” is planned from 1-5 p.m. May 21 at the Brainerd High School track. The event will be a memorial walk to celebrate and honor Tyler, said Porisch. Porisch said family, friends and former classmates may come and talk about the impact Tyler had on everyone’s lives.
“We want this to be a positive gathering,” said Porisch. “We want it to be happy and for people to celebrate.”
Porisch said there could be at least 400 people at the event from Brainerd, Dodge Center and Mankato.
“There will be a lot of people,” Porisch said. “It’s sad that Tyler couldn’t see that all these people care for him.”
The event will include a 5K memorial walk, yard games, concessions, musical performances, silent auction and a memorial balloon release to finish the event. The BHS choir also will perform a song since Tyler was a member of the high school choir.
There is no cost to get into the event, but donations are encouraged, with proceeds supporting area and national suicide awareness and prevention programs.
“If I can help any family to not go through what we have (with suicide) I would be happy,” said Porisch. “No one should have to go through this. If someone would have helped me we wouldn’t have to go through this.
“At this event, people will learn how to help their friends and others who are depressed, how to handle it and what they need to do ... People need to realize that everyone is fragile in their own way and people need to chose their words and actions carefully. I think people often don’t do that.”
Dealing with Tyler’s death and what led up to him committing suicide has been a struggle for Porisch and her family; Tyler’s father, Aaron Senn of Brainerd, and his family; and friends.
Senn said this week he wasn’t comfortable talking about Tyler’s death because he’s still having a hard time, but he said he wanted to thank everyone for putting together the memorial event for his son. Senn and his family plan to attend.
Porisch said Tyler never had any problems. He didn’t drink or do drugs and he always did what he was told. Porisch and Senn separated in 2007 and Porisch remarried in 2009 and moved to Dodge Center.
Porisch said Tyler seemed fine with the divorce and when she moved she gave him a choice if he wanted to move with her to Dodge Center or stay with his father to finish up his senior year at BHS. Tyler chose Brainerd and Porisch said she talked with Tyler over the telephone every day.
Porisch said Tyler was having a hard time dealing with social and family problems while dealing with his own depression. Tyler was hospitalized for his depression in September and again six weeks before he died. Porisch said in her eyes Tyler turned to other relationships so he wouldn’t have to deal with his parents getting a divorce. Then when things didn’t go well, Porisch said, “in his mind he was on his own and he was clearly depressed.”
Tyler was on an anti-depressant drug, but Porisch doesn’t think that he was taking it like he should have been.
A week before Tyler’s death, Porisch said he went to stay with the family for the weekend in Dodge Center.
“He interacted with us, we had a long discussion on his weight loss because I was concerned and he told me he was working out and I believed him. He said things over the weekend and I missed it. He wanted to live at home (in Dodge Center) and go to college online. I told him no because college is supposed to be the time of his life and he should live in Mankato and have fun.
“Then when he left that Sunday night, he shook my husband’s hand and he never shook my husband’s hand before ... he loaded up his stuff and I said, ‘I love you’ and he said, ‘I love you, too’ and he went to school.”
Porisch said Tyler texted his close Brainerd friends, who were students at other colleges, and wrote, “I’m going to buy supplies for my termination.” Porisch said they didn’t get the message right away and when they did they called police and herself. After several failed phone calls and voice mails to Tyler, Porisch frantically drove to Mankato to find Tyler, but it was too late. Tyler left letters on his dorm computer for his parents, siblings, four friends and two family friends.
Mankato police found Tyler’s body off a beaten walking path in the Indian Lake Preserve in Mankato. Porisch later found out that Tyler looked up “How to kill yourself” on the Internet.
Porisch said three of her children are in therapy dealing with the loss of Tyler and she tries to cope with his death on a day-to-day basis and there have been lots of tears.
Tears from Tyler’s Brainerd friends also have been abundant. Collin Sullivan, one of Tyler’s closest friends, was one of the friends who received Tyler’s text about ending his life.
“I was in complete shock,” said Sullivan. “He was always struggling and we’d talk, but you never think that this (suicide) would ever happen to your friends. I was completely shocked.”
Sullivan met Tyler when they were younger in hockey. He said they both hated hockey so they bonded from that and were close friends ever since.
“He was part of my family,” said Sullivan. “He’d stop by our house and was always welcome. Even when we grew up and we didn’t have the same interest, we still had our friendship.”
Sullivan said when he found out that his good friend was gone, “I broke down. I was lucky that I had a good support system at college (Concordia College, Moorhead). It hit me really hard. I couldn’t breath.”
Sullivan said the memorial event will give people a chance to honor his memory. Sullivan said Tyler’s sudden death didn’t allow time for everyone to attend his funeral services for a chance to say good-bye or they made it but were too shocked with the news.
Sullivan hopes that the event will help people deal with depression and how to handle situations when they arrive.
Jenna Riley, another BHS 2010 graduate and friend of Tyler’s, helped organize the memorial event that will celebrate Tyler’s life. Riley said shortly after Tyler’s funeral, friends wanted to do something for him to celebrate his life and thought they’d do it around his birthday. She said many of the friends will help volunteer on the day of the event.
“It’s important for us to raise awareness about mental illness,” said Riley. “It’s a hard situation and people are not sure where to go (when they have a friend who needs help.)”
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5851.