Fighting stigma in wake of tragedy
By Lisa Barry, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Michael “Mikey” Emerson Maloney is remembered by his friends and family as someone who loved to cook, talk politics, care for animals, play the guitar and listen to the Beatles, Pink Floyd and other music of that era. Tragically, he passed away on March 20 at the age of 24 after a prolonged battle with depression and social anxiety disorder.
On March 29, over 200 people packed into Speakers Night Club in Marlborough to reminisce about a young man who many considered a “tremendous kid.”
As pictures of Michael cycled through on a projected screen, friend after friend approached the microphone to share stories and memories. Three bands played that included friends of Michael’s from high school. Many of the attendees had come from far off distances to grieve together over their friend whose personal struggles had led him to take his own life.
“He never would have expected so many people to show up for him,” Michael’s older sister, Kelly Jenkins, said.
Though his family can easily recall a kind and light-hearted, fun-loving soul who insisted on growing his hair into dreadlocks, his mother, Vicki Emerson, said he struggled to find happiness toward the end of his young life.
“It was heartbreaking knowing how each day was so hard for him. He struggled with mental illness,” Vicki said. “He had depression and some social anxiety disorders.”
“That just came out after high school,” said Michael’s father, Neil Maloney.
His parents shared that treatment options are limited in availability and families have to make determined efforts to get help for their loved ones.
Even during Michael’s darkest moments, his family stayed close by his side. Both parents said they talked to Michael nearly every day.
“He felt like he didn’t have a friend in the world, but in reality, he had a ton of them,” Neil said. “He thought it was only his mother and me and Kelly who were there for him.”
“Initially his friends tried to keep in touch with him, but he just got to the point where his anxiety kept him from answering the phone,” Vicki said.
As they go through the grieving process together, Michael’s family is searching for a way to shed light on mental illness and depression and the stigma attached to it.
“There is a lot of stigma around depression and suicide,” Vicki said. “If we can help anyone through this terrible thing that has happened to us, we want to.” Although not a well-known fact, suicide is the third leading cause of death in the 15-24 age group.
“I just want people to know that you can never give up,” Neil said. He added that it broke his heart to watch his son struggle so much, but the family went through every avenue they knew how to fight Michael’s mental illness.
Michael’s family all admittedly struggle with sorrow and sadness in the wake of the loss of their “Mikey,” but they add they are not angry.
“We are not mad and we do not blame him,” his mother said. “We just miss him terribly. We are heartbroken and do not want to see this happen to other families.”
In Michael’s honor, $2,600 was raised at the Speakers night club event for the Baypath Humane Society of Hopkinton.
Additionally, a 5K Walk/Run, “Mikey’s Run for Hope: A Run to Promote Mental Health Awareness” will be held on Sunday, June 23, 10 a.m., starting at the Kelleher Field, 51 Jefferson St., Marlborough. A suggested donation is $25 – all proceeds will be donated to a Massachusetts branch of the Samaritans organization. To participate in the 5K visit http://www.racewire.com/events.php and put Mikey’s Run for Hope in the search bar. For more information contact Mike’s cousin, Sheeva Sairafi at firstname.lastname@example.org or 508- 395-6918.
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