Christopher’s House puts on workshops educating both parents and youth about the signs of depression.
“I also offer a workshop where youth can come and express themselves through art,” said Mabins. “I show them how to write books and express their feelings rather than suppress their feelings.”
In 2008, Mabins wrote a book, “Message for the Week—Getting Through the First Year of Grieving,” to help finance her nonprofit. Right now, Christopher’s House is headquartered in Mabins’ home and she and volunteers go to the nonprofit organizations, churches or wherever invited to hold the activities. Counselors are always on hand in case a youth needs more in-depth professional care.
Mabins’ dream is to buy a building where she can hold workshops as well as have a drop-in center with services for youth.
As far as identifying children who may be suicidal, one tip she gives is: “Pay attention to youth’s routine. That is the biggest thing. They have a routine. You need to know it. Then you will notice changes automatically.”
During what turned out to be Christopher’s last month’s of life, Mabins noticed drastic changes. “He went from I care to I don’t care,” she said. “He went from dressing neat to wearing black clothes.”
She secretly made plans to take him to a hospital. It would not be the first time.
Mabins was a single parent most of Christopher’s life, though he had a good relationship with his father. When he began misbehaving in school around age 13, she went to talk to his teachers. She asked male relatives to mentor him. She moved to another neighborhood when she thought her son might be getting involved with a gang.
Then at age 16, Mabins caught her son tearing up his clothes and cutting himself with a knife.
She took him to hospitals. Eventually, they got the diagnosis of depression. Christopher was in an outpatient program, briefly. She had hoped he would be hospitalized.
He did well for a while, even playing on the high school football team. But she noticed when football season ended, he grew depressed. At the recommendation of a counselor, he attended a program for at risk youth about 125 miles away from Chicago and did well, earning his high school equivalency and getting As and Bs.
In January of 2007, he enrolled in Wilbur Wright College in Chicago. That August, he entered his second semester. In early September, Mabins saw the signs of depression returning, so she searched his room and found that he was tearing up his clothes again. That’s when she secretly made plans to take him back to a hospital.
But it wasn’t to be. She was cooking on September 16, 2007 when she heard a gunshot upstairs. She ran into the bedroom, but it was too late. In the blur of life that followed, Mabins went to college and earned a bachelor’s degree, then got a scholarship and earned her Master’s in Social Work.
As she prepares to mark the sixth anniversary of her son’s death, she is thankful for her work with Christopher’s House of Hope.
“In the beginning, it was to fill a gap. As a parent, when you lose a child, you feel as if you’ve lost half of yourself,” said Mabins. “Now I feel a sense of fulfillment. I have no words to explain how it makes me feel. I just don’t want to see what happened to me happen to another parent.”