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Batavia teen’s book gives voice to suicidal kids

Kimberly Loveday her daughter 17 co-wrote 'Brooklyn's Battle: A
Daughter's War with Anxiety Depression.' | Denise Crosby~Sun-Times Media

Kimberly Loveday and her daughter, 17, co-wrote "Brooklyn's Battle: A Daughter's War with Anxiety and Depression." | Denise Crosby~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 15, 2014 6:24AM

You wouldn’t know it by looking at her, but Brooklyn Belair knows what it is like to suffer from chronic pain that can consume her young body and mind.

The pretty blond 17-year-old Batavia High School student, an honor student and former cheerleader, was diagnosed with RSD/CRPS, a complex regional pain syndrome that, after three unsuccessful procedures, is only made bearable by pain medication.

But the focus of this column is not on her physical struggles, despite their significance. Brooklyn also battles anxiety and depression. And had it not been for the parents’ honesty in discussing the suicide deaths of three students in her hometown several years ago, Brooklyn’s mother is convinced her daughter “would not be here either.”

The shocking suicides of Dylan Wagner, Quincee Barnes-Miller and Ben Willkinson in 2011 and 2012 led to conversations and observations, says Kimberly Loveday, that made her realize her own daughter was at risk.

Her story needs to be told,” she states emphatically, “because it can save lives.”

We have recently written a lot about suicide, including the death of an 11 year old Yorkville boy; a tragedy that prompted Beacon-News entertainment editor Wendy Fox Weber, to disclose her own son’s struggles and suicide attempt.

Those stories, in turn, convinced Loveday to reach out to me because, like my colleague, she knows the importance of breaking that damn silence to get kids the help they need.

Loveday took it one step further. Last year she wrote a book about depression and suicide that chronicles her family’s ongoing and arduous journey.

But “Brooklyn’s Battle: a Daughter’s War with Anxiety and Depression” is more than the heartfelt account of a mother’s fight for her child’s life. The book is also filled with beautiful poems written by Brooklyn that not only helped her through therapy, they reveal the raw thoughts of a teen who otherwise could not find words to express the blackness that engulfed her.

“She found a way to communicate through poetry,” said Loveday. And “her story needs to be told because it helps us see what is going on in these kids’ heads.”

Looking at this poised young woman, sitting across from me in the living room of her beautiful Batavia home, it’s difficult to see any of this pain. Signs of her physical disease are evident from the brace on the left leg and the ottoman it rests upon. The condition is so extreme, this former cheer co-captain can’t even take P.E. now.

“It was hard at first but it got better,” Brooklyn said of her battle to fight both types of pain. “It got better … writing the poetry really helped.”

Much of Brooklyn’s strength comes from a desire to help other kids. That’s why she’s become such a close ally with Ben Minnis and Emily Roberts, a dynamic young duo I’ve written about in the past who turned the suicides of their Batavia friends into Party in the Park, an annual family-oriented event that advocates for awareness and raises funds for suicide prevention.

“She is the strongest and most courageous person I know,” says Minnis. “She inspires everyone she meets.”

The three have not only formed a friendship, says Loveday, but an equally strong commitment to take the “shame and stigma out of the equation” so more kids will reach out for help before it is too late.

Brooklyn says she is seeing positive signs among her peers. “Kids now will write more about their feelings” frequently through social media, she said, which in turns brings in support from others.

Since the book was published six months ago, Brooklyn and her mother have heard from many thankful readers, youth and adults alike. Some of the proceeds will go toward suicide prevention; and Loveday says she and her daughter will continue to give a “voice to those who aren’t ready to speak for themselves.”

“Her journey has made a difference,” said Loveday, who knows all too well the courage it has taken for her daughter to speak out so publicly.

“She has not let this beat her.”

Brooklyn’s Battle can be purchased by going to The National Suicide Prevention hotline is 1-800-273-8255

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