Music brings us together.  Music can help you heel.  Music creates memories.  It's why I love what I do every day and am so happy that live music is coming back to our lives.  Many of us have our own personal stories of how music has shaped our lives and in some cases, saved our lives.  While some of you may have, or may never, experience this, others are all to familiar with this personal story of tragedy and redemption.

Ashley reached out to me with her story in the hopes that it will help one person.  Below is her story in her words.

Every 40 seconds someone dies from Suicide; every 41 seconds many are left wondering what happened. Keenan Washington tragically lost his battle with mental health on July 30th, 2011. Keenan could light up a room; his smile was contagious. When Keenan would get anxious, or impulsive, he turned to music as a release instead of unhealthy coping mechanisms. It is 2021; let’s break the Stigma of Mental Health. Keenan played the guitar, drums, and even had the ability to listen to music and be able to play it as if he was reading sheet music.

 

My name is Ashley Althiser and I am the mother of his daughter who is now 14. I loved Keenan with all my heart and soul and I tried so hard to help him; to this day my daughter and I have PTSD and I am still in counseling to deal not only PTSD, Depression, Anxiety, and recently health issues. I am here to tell Keenan’s story of love and music and how it was his escape to his happy place. He played guitar with Madison and even bought her a pink acoustic guitar for her to learn. To this day, music has saved Madison and I as she is a wonderful vocalist; elite gymnast; and as well a hip-hop dancer. Through years of counseling for her she has come to understand that her dad loved her more than anything in this world, but unfortunately lost his battle with Mental Health.

Every year on the last Saturday of July is Whitney’s Walk For Life to walk in remembrance of those we have lost to Mental Health. Within “Daddy Bear” are ashes that I had put into a bear so her dad could always be with her.

Ten years later, Madison still listens to his favorite music and continues to talk openly about Mental Health. While Keenan and I were not married, I always did what I could to support him in getting help but unfortunately; he lost his job and access to medical care. The post below was from last year when Madison posted on her timeline about her dad and how she lives with the loss of him every day.

I was 27 working full time, going to school full time, and grieving her father all at the same time. I put myself through college and graduated on July 28th, 2012 with my Bachelor of Science in Business with a 3.875 GPA; YOU CAN DO ANYTHING! August 10th, 2012, God and Keenan sent Shawan Althiser into my life. Within 6 months he had asked me to marry him and on August 24th, 2013 we were married.

Today, April 28th, 2021, we are a blended family; we take pictures of every moment and we listen to music every day. One June 12th, I will get to dance with my husband to Corey Taylor in hopes that he plays our wedding song of the cover of Tom Petty, “You Got Lucky Babe.” YOU ARE NOT ALONE AND THERE IS HELP OUT THERE! I don’t even know you; but I already love you and am rooting for you who is reading this. Keep your head up, keep rocking, and never give up.

Love your Sister in Music,

Ashley

For more information on mental health resources in Iowa, click here.  And for resources in Illinois, click here.

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