Kevin met with a counselor at Cook Counseling Center the Friday after his first week of classes at Tech.
Kevin, his mother and the counselor decided to drop his class load from 15 to 12 credits. But the following Wednesday, Kevin told his mother he couldn’t stay at Tech. His parents picked him up that Friday.
During his senior year at Westfield High School, Kevin contracted a rare eye infection — a parasite from scuba diving — and missed three months of school because he underwent surgery and used drops every hour, otherwise he could have lost his vision. When he returned to school, it was only part-time.
When Kevin arrived at Tech, he was still using eye drops for the infection and having issues with his contacts.
“It appeared that the infection was gone,” Debbie said. “But it was in the back of his head.”
Jennifer, a senior biological sciences major at Tech, said her brother had a hard time adjusting to the college environment. Her mother agreed.
“Kids have this expectation that when they get to college, they will meet a ton of people,” Debbie said. “Missing senior year put Kevin behind socially, and it was probably too much for him.”
Jennifer noticed her brother started over-analyzing situations at Tech. She said he would eat by himself but didn’t notice other people also sat alone. He amplified the situation and began eating out of vending machines.
Debbie said she and her husband visited their son three times in the two weeks before they took him home. She said Cook Counseling was wonderful to her son in those weeks.
“They bent over backward for him,” she said.
The university also told Kevin he would always be a Tech student and could come back. But about a month later, he killed himself.
Jennifer described her brother as a quiet, generous and caring person.
“Even though he was going through some mental problems — depression, social anxiety — (he had a) smile on his face no matter what,” she said. “Even though he was going through internal struggles, you could never tell.”
Perhaps Kevin’s introverted nature explains why his family and friends didn’t see his suicide coming.
Debbie said she thinks Kevin hid his pain because he was a happy-go-lucky kid. She said he was sensitive, an aspect of his personality which was both a blessing and a curse.
Kevin’s psychologist told Debbie that some kids absorb and repel, but Kevin just took everything in.
“I think it can get to you,” Debbie said. “(That’s) probably what happened to him. He just took things personally.”
Debbie said she would tell Kevin to lash out at people who were mean to him, but he would tell her, “It’s not me, mom. I’m not going to do that.”
But Kevin didn’t have a problem defending others.
Jennifer said one of Kevin’s friends from high school decided to go to Liberty University, and people made fun of him for his religious views and being a “Jesus-lover.” But Kevin stood up for him.
Kevin’s friend of 13 years, Sean Dougherty, a freshman biology major at Tech, said Kevin never had anything bad to say about anyone else.
Debbie said Kevin “didn’t have a mean bone in his body.”
When Kevin returned home from Tech, he couldn’t find a job, so his mother put him to work around the house. She also suggested he learn how to cook, so he began going to classes.
“(He was) more of a hands-on kid. Maybe the step to college lecture halls was too much,” Debbie said. “We were grasping for straws.”
Debbie said at that point, she thought Kevin was on a track he enjoyed. She even talked to Kevin about attending a cooking school in the future.
But when Kevin unexpectedly had to speak in front of his cooking class, his social anxiety kicked in. Debbie said Kevin had issues speaking in front of people, and the situation upset him.