FIRST Robotics Competition Blog

Suicide Hits Home

Dec 27, 2017 Written by Frank Merrick


Martha Dickey is the Stewardship Manager in the FIRST Development Department. The Development Department is the group within FIRST that works hard to ensure we have the sponsorships we need to continue meeting our mission. Martha and the rest of the Development group are the kind of behind-the-scenes folks our teams are unlikely ever to meet, or even hear about. But their work is critical in powering the FIRST engine in delivering life-changing programs to thousands of young people.

On September 14th, Jason, Martha’s 19-year-old son, took his own life. The full story is here. The article is difficult to read because it is so packed with emotion. Personally, I struggled through the text to the end, but scrolled back up to the top to look through the photos, and then my tears flowed. But I recommend this article to everyone, even though it’s uncomfortable. This topic is so important.

When FIRST Robotics Competition hears of the death of a team member, we send a letter of condolence, signed by me and Don Bossi, President of FIRST. It’s hard to sign any condolence letter, but when we need to sign one for a student who has taken his or her own life, it’s especially painful. It’s just so tragic.

The good news is that there are resources available to help prevent these tragedies. If you are struggling with thoughts of killing yourself, please reach out. I guarantee you that while it may not seem so, there are people in your life that love you. And the world will be worse off without you around.

If you are in the United States, and you need someone to talk to, call 1-800-273-8255. En Espanol, 1-888-628-9454. If you prefer to chat online rather than speak, the website National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has a chat function you may use. You can even just text TALK to 741741 to start a conversation. The ‘help yourself’ section of the website includes information on creating a safety plan that can help you if you are having suicidal thoughts.

Another wonderful resource is the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Their website has a wealth of resources you can use to help yourself or help others.

In Canada, the number to call is 1-833-456-4566. Their website also has a chat function.

If you live outside the United States or Canada, see this website to find help.

If you have concerns about someone else in your life having thoughts of suicide, this website has resources for you. Click on the ‘resources’ tab to find them. Especially helpful is the list of warning signs to clue you in there may be a problem.

Some of you may wonder why we decided to blog on this topic. As a youth-serving organization, we at FIRST know how hard the teenage years can be, and we meet many parents and students whose lives are scarred by suicide, suicide attempts, or thoughts of suicide. The FIRST community is a family. This is one of the things that makes us so much more than just a robotics competition. We want to be there for each other, and we want you to know there are resources available to help. Please never give up, never abandon hope---please reach out to somebody---anybody—if you need help or support. Your life is worth at least a phone call, a chat, or a text.  


Back to Blog


My condolences to all concerned and my thanks for a sincere, heartfelt, needed message. It cannot be said often enough.

Thank you for your courage to address this topic head on. It's a good example of how an employer can support a valued team member during a very difficult time. My deepest sympathy to Martha, her family and her colleagues.

You are absolutely precious to use your platform to address, reach, educate, and empower kids, families, and individuals on this topic. As a mother struggling with the recent loss of my own beautiful 19 year old son to suicide just 10 months ago die to overwhelming life struggles in a very short period of time, I salute you. I support you. And I love you for your efforts. If you can save one other mother, brother, grandparent, friend, or community from knowing this tragedy, you are making a difference. But most importantly, if you can save one other child from feeling the despair that leads them to suicidal ideation, then YOU are a champion for change. My highest regards. Tommy's mom Forever 19

I have been checking the FRC Blog quite regularly lately, looking for that exciting hint of the amazing season to come. I found an unexpected, and much more powerful, message instead. Thank you, Frank, for sharing a difficult-to-read but incredibly important story.

As a high school teacher, I am sometimes approached by trusting students who are earnestly struggling with this challenging issue. I have used very similar words that you wrote in your last paragraph, usually ending in a positive result. Sadly, our FRC team lost one of our own in 2014 to this very reason, so the significance of your message cannot be stressed enough! Thank you for having the conviction to support ALL young people in FIRST, Frank, regardless of the struggles they may be facing. You have provided many helpful resources, and I hope that FIRSTers wrestling with this demon hear your words loud and clear: that somebody DOES care and that they should never give up or abandon hope! They bring worth to our world and will eventually overcome the challenges they are currently facing!

Well done, Good Sir...well done.

Ty Fredriks. Faculty Advisor

FIRST 3512 Spartatroniks from Orcutt, CA

Add new comment