‘Reach out,’ mom urges in wake of son’s suicide



When Miles Kelleher was in third grade, he knew he wanted to be an engineer.

In junior high, he even had the idea to build a human slingshot.

One day, he tried it with friends.

It didn’t go quite as well as planned, and his friends shuddered with fear as they alerted his mother that her son had been hurt.

Lisa Kelleher laughs as she remembers moments like these from when Miles was a child.

“He was a goofy kid,” she said lovingly.

Such memories, though, are touched with sadness.

Last spring, on April 27, Miles Kelleher took his own life on the Detroit Mercy campus during the last stretch of his senior year.

His death, occuring in the final week of class, stunned the university community – and still reverberates painfully to this day among family, friends, classmates, faculty and staff.

With the national Center for Disease Control reporting recently that suicide rates continue to rise among young adults, Lisa Kelleher, Miles’ mother, agreed to speak with The Varsity News in hopes that her painful experience might help those who are suffering and maybe prevent other deaths.

She encourages anyone who struggles with mental health to not battle it alone.

“Other people can listen, other people can take a burden off you if you would let them in,” she said. “If you decide to take your own life, think about the people that love you. Your pain is going to transfer to them.”

The week before he died, Miles went home to St. Joseph on the west side of Michigan for Easter break. It would be the last holiday family members spent with him.

Joy and laughter filled Easter morning, his mother recalled.

Miles and his siblings went through their Easter baskets and played soccer outside the family home.

“When he would go back to school, I would always hug him and say, ‘I love you, Miles,’ ” his mom said. “He always answered with ‘I love you too, Mom.’ ”

Three days before he died, Miles saw a counselor.

Throughout his life, Miles suffered from severe anxiety and depression.

His parents noticed his struggle even more during his senior year of high school.

Purdue University was his dream school. Since elementary school, he had hoped to study there.

Everyone knew of his dream to attend the university, Lisa Kelleher said.

They would give him Purdue apparel, and he had a vast collection of gear by the time of his junior year in high school.

When he submitted his application to Purdue, he was too late and was denied admission. The news devastated him.

Miles went to a three-month rehabilitation program for mental health to learn coping skills.

The program aimed to help those with suicidal thoughts.

Afterward, in 2014, Miles enrolled at Detroit Mercy as a robotics engineering student

He enjoyed running cross country at the university but was never satisfied with his times.

“He started comparing himself with his friends that can run faster,” his mother said. “In his eyes, they were perfect.”

Miles was determined to improve.

One day after an away meet, Miles called his parents with excitement in his voice because of his 16:01 time in a race.

“That was one of the few times he shared anything with us,” said his mother.

Everyone cheered him.

“It’s always great when a runner has a big breakthrough,” said his Titan coach, Guy Murray. “It felt like there was more for Miles.”

Murray is director of track and field and cross country at the university and had coached Miles since he arrived on campus.

He was a good team member, Murray said.

“Miles was hard-working, liked to run and wanted to do well,” he said. “It was good having him on the team. He was vocal and spirited and helped make the team a fun place to be.”

But Murray does wish one thing: He wishes Miles had given him more insights into how he was feeling and what he was going through.

Many who are touched by suicide face similar thoughts.

After his death, his mother said she heard from many people who had been helped by Miles. He was a friend to everyone he crossed paths with and had a caring heart for others, offering a helping hand before he could help himself, she said.

“It’s unreal. So many people have said, ‘I’m alive because of Miles,’ ” she said.

Last spring, weeks before Miles would have turned 23, his parents, Lisa and David Kelleher, came to Detroit Mercy for the university graduation ceremony.

His parents walked across the stage on behalf of their son.

Thunderous applause greeted them.

His diploma, awarded posthumously, was marked with the day he died.

In a recent Facebook post, his mother provided a gimpse of her sorrow, writing, “I always believed in you, Miles: I’d do anything to save you. Your room, car, place at the table will always be here for you. Come home. Love, Mom.”

800-273-8255 / Suicide Prevention Lifeline