A grieving mother penned a heartfelt obituary for her son who recently took his own life, and it has received national attention.
Mary Neubauer, who is recognizable among many Iowans as the spokeswoman for the Iowa Lottery, lost her 18-year-old son, Sergei, after he killed himself Sept. 25.
Neubauer, of Urbandale, and hundreds of other people participated in the National Alliance on Mental Illness walk Saturday to raise awareness about mental illness in Iowa, saying the state is in a “mental health crisis.”
“He fought and asked for help so many times, and I’m so proud of the work that he did,” Neubauer said. “I just wish one last time he could have been able to ask for help again.”
Sergei was 10 years old when he was adopted from Russia. His parents said he suffered abuse in the orphanage, which led to depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder as a teenager.
“We didn’t know the extent of the abuse he had suffered until years and years later because he just couldn’t bring himself to talk about the details until recently,” his mother said.
Neubauer said it was Sergei’s inner demons that got the best of him.
“He would say, ‘I’m scared. I’m struggling. I want to feel better. How can I feel better?’” she said. “And we moved heaven and earth as much as we possibly could to help him.”
“Recently here in central Iowa, unfortunately, we’ve experienced a rash of suicides,” said Peggy Huppert, executive director of NAMI Iowa.
In Sergei’s obituary, Neubauer wrote that Iowa “did not have adequate mental-health resources” for her son, and he spent several months out of state in residential treatment.
Now she’s devoted to bringing closure to other families who are dealing with the same struggle.
“This process just brought us to our knees in terms of trying to find our way through it,” Neubauer said. “In terms of residential mental health care, there isn’t any, and that’s a huge void.”
As his parents sifted through photos of their son gone too soon, Larry Loss, Sergei’s father, fought back tears, saying, “He was meant to be our son.”
Neubauer added, “I think he still will change the world. He was making a difference.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, visit namiiowa.org for resources.