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Richard Piatt ReportingA Salt Lake City family is grief-stricken and angry over the suicide of their son. They say he killed himself because he was gay, and they're using his death to raise awareness of a seldom addressed but preventable tragedy.
Chris Ricksecker killed himself two weeks ago and had tried several times before that. The family's vigil at Sugarhouse Park Tuesday night was meant to do two things: affirm his life, and reject those they say rejected him.
It is never easy to say goodbye to a person people remember as 'caring'. It's harder when that person is young; and harder still when that person leaves a note saying they couldn't stand rejection any more.
That's the kind of grief the family and friends of Chris Ricksecker shared at the vigil, along with a little anger.
David Ricksecker/Father: "As far as I'm concerned there was nothing wrong with Chris. It's just the way the world treats gay people."
David Ricksecker admits it took time for him to accept his gay son. But he says it was even harder when he asked for help dealing with it. Hearing Chris described as 'bad' and 'evil', words Chris himself no doubt heard. They're the kind of words experts say can cut deep.
Charles Milne/Univ. of Utah Resource Center: "Any kind of comment can really affect someone on the inside and you may not even know it. Even the comment of 'that's so gay', or things of that nature."
In life Chris took comfort in his stuffed animals, good food and funny jokes. He had his share of problems, but his family believes judgmental people made those problems worse.
Sheri Young/Stepmother: "I just think it needs to get out there and be said: Stop killing our kids with your moralizing everybody. Stop killing our children."
David Ricksecker/Father: "The most precious gift god has ever given me was my gay son and he's gone.”
Studies show that between 30 and 35 percent of young gay men consider or attempt suicide. A few of them, like Chris Ricksecker, succeed.