The family of Michael Albert Carrasco didn’t see it coming.
Michael was a quiet, thoughtful teen who largely kept to himself. He enjoyed
making video movies and was very close with his younger brother. His parents
were concerned, though: After moving to Chesterton from Portage, Michael
seemed to have problems adjusting. He started letting his appearance go. But
he also asked his dad about going to baseball games.
He may have been giving signs. Or maybe it was just the normal ups and downs
of a teenager’s life.
One day Michael told his mom that he was sad. “I told him, well I’m not
really happy myself,” Maria Carrasco said. She thought she was comforting
him, letting him know that everyone sometimes has bad days. But what she
didn’t know was that her oldest son was struggling with depression.
On April 8, 2009, Michael’s younger sister, Miranda, now 13, found him in
the family garage. Michael took his own life by hanging himself. He was 16.
More than a year later, his close-knit family members are sharing their
experience. They say they know the pain will never go away, but that it’s
starting to get easier to talk about what happened. And now, with suicides
steadily on the rise in Porter County, they want to share their story in the
hopes of preventing another teen’s death.
“If we can save just one life, it will be worth it,” Maria said.
The Carrasco family lived in Portage for nine years. Maria and her husband,
Albert, thought that moving to Chesterton would be ideal. Michael was about
to go into high school at the time.
But Maria said she now feels that if Michael had already been suffering from
depression, taking him out of an environment that he was well familiar with
and moving into a brand new town was a “big mistake.”
“He struggled for two years,” she said.
There were signs something was very wrong. He starting letting his
appearance go and wasn’t eating right at all. “He liked being alone,” Albert
But it wasn’t that clear cut. “There were times he did seem happy,” Albert
said, remembering how Michael like writing scripts and had his family
members dress up as they performed a mystery he wrote, which he then video
taped. Michael also loved baseball and asked his dad if he could go to
baseball trials with him. If Michael had been in a slump, his parents
thought he may have gotten over it. “Everything to me was looking fine,”
Maria said she and Michael were very close. But she didn’t know he was
suffering. Had she known Michael was struggling with depression, “I would
have grabbed him, taken him to a doctor, put him on medication. But he never
came to us and said he was depressed.”
What happened that April day shocked the family to the core.
“We didn’t see it coming,” Albert said.
After Michael died, his parents went through his room and looked through all
his writings. He loved to write, and his writings revealed to them the depth
of his struggle. They knew then that Michael wasn’t just having some bad
days, but was dealing with a real illness that they heard about but never
The neighbors in their Abercrombie Woods subdivision showed overwhelming
support and compassion for the family and arranged a vigil shortly after
Michael’s death. “They all remembered Michael as having a huge heart,”
There have been times over the past year that the family has found comfort.
Michael’s younger brother, Anthony, played a song that he and Michael used
to listen to, “Mad,” at the funeral. One day, Albert said he heard the song
three times in a row at his various stops. He thought that was unusual,
until it occurred to him that that was the song Michael liked.
When Albert got the news about Michael, he was at bay 93 at his job at U.S.
Steel Gary Works. Everytime he passes that bay, he says a little prayer in
Michael’s memory. There was something about that number that stuck with
Albert but for the longest time he couldn’t figure out what. Then one day,
it dawned on him: Michael was born in 1993.
Michael liked eating Burger King hamburgers plain -- with just a burger and
the bun. After the funeral, Albert told his family they were going to Burger
King and that he would order a plain burger in Michael’s honor. When he got
the burger, he found it very odd that it looked as if someone had taken a
bit out of it.
“I feel like Michael has been sending us a lot of signs,” Albert said. “The
signs are like Michael’s way of saying that everything is going to be fine.”
Maria said losing a child is a tragic experience that no one can fully
understand unless it happens to them. She wonders if she and Albert would
even be here today -- if they’d even try to go on with life -- if it weren’t
for their need to help their other children. The pain never goes away, she
said, but “you learn to go on with life.”
Members of Michael’s family have sought counseling following his death, but
Maria said there’s a noticeable lack of programs specifically aimed at teens
dealing with loss and grief. She said she has found nothing that’s targeted
to teen siblings of suicide.
And that’s why Maria and Albert want to share their experience, in the hopes
that schools, non-profits and other agencies address the special
circumstances facing teens who are either contemplating suicide or who are
living with the loss from suicide. Porter County had 35 suicides last year,
and about 10 so far this year. “Porter County is going through something,”
she said, shaking her head in disbelief.
On April 8, the one-year anniversary of Michael’s death, the Carrasco family
hosted a candlelight vigil. Maria said so many people turned out that they
ran out of their supply of more than 100 candles.
Albert and Maria are also taking their message directly to teens. They want
to remove the “taboo” of suicide in order to have open, honest dialogue.
They would like to see posters made up that could be put in schools with the
message: If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, talk about
it. Don’t keep it to yourself.
Maria said teens don’t seem to fully comprehend the finality of suicide --
problems tend to be temporary, but suicide is permanent. If any kid is
thinking about taking their life, they want them to know that they must, as
hard as it might be, to tell their parents or other trusted adult. “Talk to
your parents. They want to help you. Go and get help,” Albert said.
And if a teen hears from a friend that the friend is thinking about suicide,
don’t blow it off. The friend must tell an adult -- even if their friend
told them not to tell anyone.
“The right thing to do is to tell an adult. If you don’t want to tell us
(the parents), then go to your own parents. Don’t keep it a secret. You need
to tell someone,” Albert said.
“You might be saving a life,” Maria added. “Don’t let this happen to another