'Stay inside. Daddy shot himself.' Couple shares suicide story to help others who struggle

Posted at 1:47 PM, Sep 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-13 14:55:19-04

PRINCE GEORGE COUNTY, Va. -- Phil and Marcie Sanders do their best to share their story with anyone who will listen. It's a story that becomes especially poignant each September during Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month.

"My goal is to keep one person from doing what I did," Phil Sanders said.

In June 2019, after years of mental health struggles, Sanders tried to take his own life.

Phil and Marcie Sanders
Phil Sanders

His family was home when it happened.

"I was on the back deck and I came inside and I said [to the children], 'You have to stay inside, Daddy has shot himself,'" Marcie Sanders said.

Phil Sanders survived the shooting, but was left in the hospital and unconscious for three weeks.

"When he woke up, his first words were, 'God is real.' And I knew," Marcie said.

Phil and Marcie Sanders

She said she knew were husband was a changed man.

"I got a second chance," Phil said. "It's a miracle. It’s absolutely a miracle."

After his release from the hospital, Phil faced nearly a dozen surgeries but said he no longer felt the symptoms of bipolar disorder or depression.

With a new lease on life, Phil and Marcie felt the need to help others.

"I think it is so important to reach as many people as possible," Marcie said.

Phil and Marcie Sanders

The couple shares their life story with groups around the community.

"People don’t realize when they kill themselves, how many people they’re affecting.  It spreads like a spider web," Phil said.

Telling their children what happened to their Dad was one of Marcie's first test groups.

“Daddy made a mistake. Everybody makes mistakes in life. We’re going to go and we’re going to support him," she remembered telling the children. "It was not the right choice. It was not a good choice.  And it’s really hard right now but we’re going to be OK."

Phil and Marcie Sanders

It was a lesson the children now apply to their parents' desire to help others.

"There’s a lot of people that have thoughts about killing themselves and have tried," son Reagan Sanders said.

Phil and Marcie Sanders said that Suicide Prevention Month brought much-needed awareness to the problem and wanted to reminder everyone about 9-8-8 — the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

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