SOUTH BEND - Speaking at a local public event for the first time since her death, Tom Seeberg described his daughter, Elizabeth “Lizzy” Seeberg, as kind, generous, and, invariably, “ready to take on the day.”
“She was not a doom-and-gloom young woman,” the Northbrook, Ill., man said from beneath a rain-soaked tent Saturday at Howard Park. “But she drove into a real tough storm, and she couldn’t get out of it.”
Lizzy, a Saint Mary’s College student, committed suicide in September of last year, a week after accusing a football player of sexually assaulting her inside a University of Notre Dame residence hall.
The player was not charged, and the university subsequently determined his actions did not violate its sexual misconduct policy.
Sporting a navy blue Saint Mary’s College baseball cap, Seeberg spoke Saturday prior to the start of the “Out of Darkness Walk,” hosted by the Central Indiana Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
The walk, the first of its kind in South Bend, raised funds for the organization, which works to prevent suicide, increase awareness of depression and suicide, advocate for mental health issues, and assist survivors of suicide loss.
“When this happened,” Seeberg said, referring to the loss of his daughter, “it rocked us to our core. And when that happens, everything gets stripped away, and the things that are important in life are revealed to you.”
Choking back tears, he described those things.
“I’m grateful for the greatest wife in the world. I’m lucky to be a dad … I’m lucky to have been Lizzy’s dad,” he said, adding: “I’m still Lizzy’s dad.”
Seeberg also addressed his public criticism of Notre Dame’s handling of Lizzy’s case. Campus police never interviewed the accused football player until after Lizzy’s death.
“I want to give special thanks to the Notre Dame community,” he said. “I understand my public profile has been bit thorny, but it’s always been an act of love; it’s never been an act of hate.”
Hundreds of others joined Seeberg for the walk, including Stephanie McKay, of Hinsdale, Ill., another survivor of suicide loss.
“Suicide prevention is really important to me,” the Notre Dame student said, noting that she has lost both a close friend and a family member to mental illness.
“It’s important that people understand that mental illness is a disease,” she said, “and that it needs to treated openly and with respect.”
Lori Stanage, another participant, lost her uncle to suicide.
“It changes you completely,” the Mishawaka woman said. “You’re never the same after you go through it.”
Commenting on the event, she said: “It’s nice here, because the people here have been through the same thing. And unless you’ve been through it, you can never begin to understand.”
For information about mental illness and suicide, visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention online at www.afsp.org.
Staff writer Erin Blasko: