LEXINGTON — A community organization chapter for parents who have lost children is hosting Jeremy and Bailey Koch in an open meeting for those who struggle with depression and mental illness.
The Compassionate Friends is a worldwide organization with over 600 chapters in all 50 states and are present in 30 other counties. The group offers support, friendship and understanding to bereaved parents, siblings, grandparents and other family members during the natural grieving process after a child has died.
Marcia Holtz, with the Lexington chapter of Compassionate Friends said their meetings are normally closed to the public, the grief of losing a child is best understood by someone who has been in the same situation.
During their October meeting, however, they will be hosting a meeting open to the public and have invited Jeremy and Bailey Koch to speak at a meeting titled, "Anchoring Hope for Mental Health."
Having heard Jeremy speak previously, the Lexington Chapter invited the Kochs to speak about their struggle and journey through mental illness, Holtz said some of the members of the chapter have lost children to suicide.
Jeremy and Bailey are the owners of Natural Escapes in Cozad and have two boys Hudson, 13, and Asher, 10.
Ten years ago Jeremy had been diagnosed with severe depression, he did not tell his wife, Bailey, initially about his diagnosis. Several different medications were tried, but they were wrong for Jeremy’s situation, his first suicide attempt followed a medication change, over the years he made five attempts to take his own life.
Jeremy survived each of these attempts and has been telling their story to help people find clarity and hope in their own depression and suicidal thoughts. He said it is very clear this is their ministry and attributes his success to his faith in God.
With no suicidal thoughts in over three years, Jeremy has a "Big Three," when it comes to combating depression.
The first advice he gives people is to have faith in something bigger than themselves, something beyond the rush of day to day living. Secondly, he tells people the importance of a support network. Jeremy said his wife Bailey is his number one support. This support network also includes his pastor, talk therapist, psychiatrist, family and friends.
He described depression like a weight which would feel so heavy, some days Jeremy felt like he couldn’t get out of bed, even going through his day, he would feel weighed down. His support network enables Jeremy to talk about how he is feeling and they will help bear the weight by spreading it out to those who care about him and his wellbeing.
His third piece of advice is for people to maintain a healthy diet, including exercise, and using the proper medications. Jeremy said people need to see a brain specialist for medications, depression can be down to a chemical imbalance in the brain and the right combination of medications is extremely important and can help someone re-wire their thoughts.
When asked about the message he would share at the Compassionate Friends meeting, Jeremy plans to talk about his history with depression and will say to anyone struggling, "You are not alone."
People start to open up after they have heard Jeremy and Bailey speak and realize the depression is bigger than them, "it’s not fair to struggle by yourself," he said. He hopes to open up a conversation between people and let them know there is hope and they can get healthier.
In a 2014 therapy session, the therapist joked Jeremy and Bailey should write a book about their experience, Jeremy turned down the idea point blank. Yet he and his wife Bailey began to write down their experiences to reflect. In 2015 a publisher reached out to them and was interested in printing their story.
"Never Alone," was published in 2015. "It’s not a fun read, but it is real and honest," Jeremy said. After reading the book, many began opening up to Jeremy and Bailey and said it helped uplift them.
Around four years ago, the Kochs began speaking at different events and for the last two years, they have shared their story with every student who passes through the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
The family’s book publishing days were not over, they published a book aimed at families called, "When the House Feels Sad," it talks about how parents and children can open up about depression.
Jeremy said he and his wife are happy to come and speak to any group and share their story, people can see depression from a unique situation.
The "Anchoring Hope for Mental Health," meeting will be on Monday, Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the Concord Club House on 20th and Erie St. in Lexington. The public is welcomed to attend.