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'Have you thought about hurting yourself?' | Parents of young man who took his life say hard conversations are key

When Patrick Heinold took his own life, his parents say no one saw it coming. Now they're inviting everyone to a basketball/volleyball tourney to raise awareness.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Hank and Kristin Heinold are honoring their son’s memory through something he loved more than anything; sports.

Their son, Patrick, played basketball for Bolles. He took his own life on Feb. 4, 2017.

The Heinold's are inviting individuals from 5th grade and up to come play in Patrick's Tournament, a basketball and volleyball competition on March 27.

The event is meant for people to have fun while also spreading awareness of mental health issues. You can register for the event through Tuesday, March 22.

The tourney will be at the Sports Edge Athletics, located at 8457 Western Way.

Mental health issues can impact anybody, even the ones who may seem 'fine' on the outside.

Patrick Heinold's fellow basketball players say they were shocked when they learned of his death. They described Patrick as the "gentle giant"  who was always smiling and always happy. 

His dad, Hank, says, "No one saw it."  

He says not even Patrick's teachers, friends or even his sister knew he was in despair. 

Credit: Heinold family
The Heinold family

His mom, Kristin, says they were home, and she was making banana bread. She says Patrick said, "I'm going to get some soap," a sentence that didn't alarm her because he was getting ready for knee surgery.  

But then she says he was going in their bedroom, and "he never goes in our bedroom."

"I finished stirring, and we heard a gunshot," she remembers.

Hank Heinold went up and found Patrick. 

"It's your son. It's not something ... no one ever needs to see that. I think it's what drives us to increase awareness. No one ever needs to experience this. It's horrible."

Credit: Heinold family
Patrick Heinold would be of age to graduate college spring 2022, if he were still alive.

Patrick's parents have spent the last five years attending training on suicide prevention, establishing a foundation to raise awareness and funding, and linking together resources for families.

One part of the training, Hank says, is learning to ask questions to your child, even if they make you uncomfortable. For example, Hank says he's learned this is an important question, "Hey, how are you doing?" and then "Have you ever thought about hurting yourself?"

If your child or teenager seems to be thinking along those lines, you can ask for more details. "Do you have a plan?"

If the answers worry you or downright scare you, there are free resources to contact on the Heinold's Foundation Website under "resources."  

Also, Jacksonville has a new group offering free support from people who've dealt with mental health issues themselves. It's called  "HERETOMORROW" and that phone number is 904-327-9087. 

Hank says the key is to keep talking and keep asking questions because people thinking about suicide, he says, "go to a dark place and there's no one there." 

Credit: Angel wings to honor Patrick/gift for tournament players

Everyone at the basketball tournament will get a bag full of gifts, including sunglasses with a special logo honoring Patrick with angel wings, and some shirts and water bottles.

Credit: Patrick's Tourney

Tournament participants will also receive a card with the letters, P A T for Patrick, It's a reminder how we can all help save lives.

Here's a summary:

  • P --  PAUSE  ... notice how people around you are acting. Check in with your friends, teammates and classmates. Notice changes in mood or behavior.
  • A -- ASK  ... if you notice that something has suddenly become quiet, withdrawn, sad or distant.  If they talk about feeling hopeless or hurting themselves, you need to take action.
  • T-- TALK ... encourage them to talk to someone -- a coach, teacher, counselor or parents. 

You can also order a batch of these cards for your group through the Heinold website.

Feeling hopeless or know someone who is? TEXT 741741 for a trained crisis counselor. Call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline