The DISTRESS CALL coMMunity is calling on everyone who understands what it is like to have friends and family members suffering from mental health challenges. All everyone really needs is a friend they can count on to be there without judging them. A friend who is always sticking up for them because they understand what it feels like to be bullied, teased and tormented. We each need to find that person who won't be burdened by the Distress Call because picking up the phone helps them feel better too. We all just need 1 reason to wake up excited about something, even if 10 other things suck.
Consider Modern Material the operator that will help connect people to those who truly understand the same challenges of making or picking up the Distress Call. Turn the burden of having a conversation into a bond between soul mates who don't want to hang up the phone. Look for Characters or lyrics you can relate to in our coMMunity while we begin building the Brand Story inspired by your own lives.
The Distress Call Brand will take you through the TRUE STORY as told by Aimee Skyler Whitman as she encounters a lifetime of suicides. Character names, dates, locations and connections have been changed to protect identities and provide privacy from the social stigma. Only one storyline has a slight variation to capture the most current rise of cyber bullying and social media.
The Story of Modern Material begins at an Audioslave concert in Columbus, Ohio with nearly a dozen connections to Chris Cornell but the community concept for building friendships among music fans who can identify with the lyrics and resonate with the stories that define our lives belongs to a couple of guys named Tyler and Josh who thought they were nobody sitting in the corner of a showroom full of campus t-shirts and a bunch of girls gossiping about fashion. Aimee Skyler had been listening to their music for weeks when she got up the guts to go sit down and tell them about Modern Material. Aimee was working with dozens of bands in LA and NYC to promote their music and Twenty One Pilots were the only unsigned band she decided to work with. She had butterflies in her stomach like she did after meeting idols like Gavin Rossdale. These boys were going to be somebody and she would do everything she could to help them.
The Story of Modern Material is very complex as my creative mind tends to run around on me a lot. I'm sitting here writing My Story, starting to wonder if I have neglected everything in my life. My friends, my family, my husband, business partners, boyfriends....and now my own body and mind. I do everything possible to not get hurt and it hurts everyone I've ever loved. Do I need to redeem myself from committing the 7 Deadly Sins or has my time already come because I failed to take care of myself and everyone I cared about?
I don't know, but we'll find out together. I believe my life was destined to build this community of people who care about sharing something special together. If you found your soulmate in the flesh and blood then you're fortunate. But as each of our lives change so does the food we need to feed our souls. I don't believe there is just one person for each of us forever and maybe that's why I felt I was losing my marriage because it has been 22 years since I made a mistake that I never regretted. But the past has a way of catching back up to you.
I used my body to win but now it's telling me it's losing some type of battle. I used my brain to create artyhtyg but now it's telling me to win. Win for all of you who need a reason to live, a reason to love and a reason not to give up on yourself or on somebody else who wants to give up.
I grew up a Junior Olympian so I know a thing or two about running. I liked to win races, chase boys and get into arguments with my mom and stepdad for making stupid rules because he wasn't my father. The affairs and remarriages destroyed my 14 year old belief in the fairytale romance after my own 16 year old boyfriend cheated on me. Love and happily ever after was not real.
My dad let me do anything as long as I was wining. 214 awards sit in a dusty plastic bin at my mom's house in Ohio while I live in tiny one bedroom apartment with my husband overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Long Beach, CA. My dad thinks I've changed. That I'm so LA. Materialistic and self centered. Maybe he's right, but isn't that what he taught me? That I needed to beat everyone else to prove my self worth? I just built a career that could buy nice things instead of wining another gold medal for a box. I'd rather have worked my ass off for a Mercedes convertible or a rooftop pool overlooking the pacific. But he's not proud of me anymore.
CHAD RAINES - Death by Suicide
And I started wondering if he was right. Was my life supposed to be spent creating fashion and beauty brands for pop stars? No, that's not what I wanted. When Chad Raines died on April 20, 2017 I sat at home in California stunned. My husband, Scott Whitman, called Shelby Raines to find out what happened. Chad took his life after finding out Shelby was going to leave him with their two daughters, Allie and Chloé. I noticed how hearing that Chad committed suicide was not any different to me than if he died in a car accident or had cancer. It didn't scare me but when I told people about it they acted as if they saw a ghost.
JACK CHRISTIAN - Death by Suicide
Maybe that's because I used to talk to the spirit of Jack Christian when I'd lay in his bed at night after seeing a Chris Cornell concert in Cleveland. His mom, Christine, needed a reason to get out of bed every day so I'd go with her to see Chris Cornell or Soundgarden every time a tour came to Ohio. In November 2005 Christine was looking for someone to go to an Audioslave concert with her but she couldn't find many music fans in a city of football fans. We worked together and she heard I liked 90's music. When I heard Jared Leto had a band playing I said I'd go. He was still Jordan Catalano, lead signer of Frozen Embryos from my 14 year old So-Called Life. I was beyond impressed with Thirty Seconds to Mars. Their lyrics just resonated with me during my rage for corporate politics.
While we were sitting in our seats Christine looked at my drivers license and started laughing. "You were born in 1979, the year I graduated from High School!" she exclaimed. "My oldest son is 17! I could be your mother!"
She told me about Jack who was a musician and artist and he was suffering from depression. I told her about my best friend Stephanie and how she used to attempt suicide multiple times when we were in college. A bond started forming and Christine started inviting me over to the house during Ohio State games because Scott was always with Chad Raines and their friends. Christine, Jack and I were sitting around the table talking about Chris Cornell's lyrics. One of his favorite songs was Heaven's Dead.
After Jack graduated from High School he left for college at Michigan. He wasn't a sports fan but was a talented guitar player and artist. He had red hair, freckles and his slender body was always wearing a band t-shirt, never an Ohio State t-shirt. Jack had his group of High School friends but everyone split up. When he got to Michigan all of the jocks started bullying him for not getting into the team spirit. Not only was he from Ohio, but he wasn't a sports fan. Jack's dad, James Christian, was a record producer out in Hollywood but he didn't really speak to him very often.
"CHRISTINE, I promise Jack's suicide threat is just a teenage phase he will grow out of. Stephanie is fine now."
In January 2007 Christine called me crying hysterically, not knowing what to do. Jack had just been arrested after attempting suicide. She didn't know what to do but she knew Aimee had been there. He wanted to move home but she had already paid tuition and I promised her it was just a teenage phase. That he just needed attention and drugs would probably help him like they did for Stephanie. I told her we should take him to see a concert when he came back for spring break so we bought tickets to see Pete Yorn at the Newport.
Christine and I took Jack and his girlfriend to dinner at Eddie George's on the OSU Campus then walked over to the Newport. Jack was doing pretty well. Seemed fine to me. I made jokes like how I was going to beat up the people standing in front of us so I could get my favorite spot at the Newport, left of stage, along the railing of the lower level.
A week later I was at a press check in Philadelphia when one of my co-workers called me with the news. Jack shot himself in the woods. I just shut down. Went numb. I couldn't cry, I just ran through everything in my head about what went wrong. I was wrong. I was so wrong to thing that suicide was just a cry for attention. That it was an excuse to get what someone wanted. What if Stephanie had been serious? What if she hadn't lived? Would it have been my fault?
STEPHANIE KANE - Multiple Suicide Attempts
It was March 1999 and there were police cars, ambulances and fire trucks surrounding my apartment off campus in Columbus, Ohio. I was a freshman at Ohio State planning on majoring in Psychology. I need to take two exams in the morning for Winter quarter if I want to still get an A in class.
I knew exactly what happened. 15 minutes earlier I got a phone call from my roommate Stephanie’s friend while I was working at the Toy Store. She said I needed to go home quickly.
I rushed home in my brand new red Ford Escort ZX2 and saw the flashing lights surrounding our apartment. I found a parking spot and ran up the steps. There were about 8 cops and 4 paramedics. Stephanie was nowhere to be seen. The apartment was darkly lit with a glow from the upstairs bathroom. An officer was looking through it and two were in our bedroom.
“Are you Aimee?” One of them said as I answered yes.
“Your roommate Stephanie has been taken to OSU hospital for attempting to commit suicide. We have a few questions for you. Do you know if she would have left a letter explaining why she wanted to do this to herself?”
“We kept a journal. She’s told me several times before she wanted to kill herself.”
I retrieved the latest journal and gave it to the cop. He took a look at it. The last few entries were a simple goodbye and thank you to her friends and family. Everyone but me.
“Goodbye. I cannot do this anymore. Thank you for all you've done for me.” Love, Stephanie
The cop put the journal in an evidence bag and took a statement from me. I was in shock. Just a sick feeling but no real emotion. It didn't seem real and there was no way she was actually going to be gone just like that. I was in denial as I answered questions. When they were finished I was allowed to leave and go to the hospital where I walked the line in the fluorescent lit corridor to the ER shaken. Was this time real? It wasn’t the first attempt.
Weeks earlier I had received a voicemail from her saying she went down to the Olentangy River to drown herself. It was late at night went I went down to the banks alone to look for her. A 19 year old wondering around the park alone at midnight thanks to my best friend's suicide threat.
By her third threat I just quit believing in her cry for help. It seemed like every time I left to see Scott she needed me to be there for her. I'd drive 30 minutes away and get a phone call that she needed me to come home. Following her rules were worse than my parents. I had a curfew from my roommate to help her from feelings of loneliness and I was getting tired of listening to her.
The nurses in the ER led me into her hospital room. I was the first one there to visit. Her face was stained and covered with a black substance. It scared me because I thought it was what she did to herself. The nurses explained that they made her drink charcoal so they could pump her stomach. She was doing ok. She was going to live.
But that wasn't the end of our story, that was just the beginning of our life or death friendship for the next two years of college.
I wrote her a letter a week later accusing her of making me fail my college exams. Not only was she keeping me away from my boyfriend, she was keeping me from getting good grades. I was still a very strong Christian believer at this point in my life. I'd tell her how God was the only one who should have the ability to end her life and that she should not be having such thoughts and it wasn't normal. I probably said anything I could to help her based on MY OWN beliefs, not hers. What I said was NOT what she needed to hear. She didn't need me preaching to her or scolding her for feeling that way. She didn't need me comparing my problems to hers. Just because I managed to get through my problems without having serious depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts did not mean I was qualified to tell her how to feel.
Being her best friend was not something I was qualified to be. If she needed to have open heart surgery, I wouldn't have been qualified to operate. She needed help dealing with the thoughts in her brain but I couldn't relate. All I could do was compare my life to hers and think she had a big happy family that I was now a part of because my dad married her aunt. She had perfect friends and was THE PROM QUEEN. What sucked about Stephanie's life?
"STEPHANIE, My life sucks too but I'm still here."
In June 1998 I had just moved in with Stephanie Kane and two other girls. Scott and I were so excited to start our own life, free from my own emotional demons which I left behind in Bluestone, Ohio. What happened in Bluestone, stayed in Bluestone. There was no social media to find people once you moved away. You'd have to find someone who knew where you moved and had your new phone number. I just wanted escape Bluestone and go to a place nobody knew me....Columbus, Ohio.
Scott and I finally got away from the shame of cheating on his fiancé and my boyfriend. We still went back to Bluestone to visit friends and family, occasionally crossing paths with ex-fiancé's family. Scott did his thing and repaired their relationships but me, I was still the girl who stole her man and everyone, especially my best friends, made me very aware of what I did wrong.
Scott and I kept our friendship a secret after we hooked up at a party one night in September 1996 after my boyfriend, Chad Lyons, went back to school in North Carolina. We made no promises to remain exclusive and I never believed he want to be committed to me and every girl in Bluestone had a crush on Scott. I chalked that night up as a fling and he said Shannon cheated on him with several of his friends so it almost seemed like payback. Then Scott proposed to her and the idea of us having a relationship turned into a scandalous affair when I was just a 17 year old Junior in High School.
I could not understand what Stephanie was complaining about. She went to Catholic School and had a big happy family who was now a part of mine too. They had a party for everybody's birthday, which was every weekend. I had taken my friend, Tim Becker to Stephanie's High School graduation party. My dad and stepmom were drunk and got into a massive argument. Tim dropped me off after Steph's friend's graduation party and I walked into the house at 1am with every single appliance or electronic device on at top volume while my dad was passed out on the sofa and my stepmom Kelly was screaming at him. Tim already left so I was screwed. My family was the crazy one, not Stephanies!
I was just so happy to be free from my past when Stephanie started making all of the rules when her depression started kicking in. I just wanted to be with Scott without someone coming between us.
I hadn't seen or spoken to Chad for a year when Stephanie told me he stopped in the Toy Store looking for me in Columbus, Ohio one afternoon in September 1998. Tom Becker, Tim's brother, knew where I worked. Tom was good friends with my best friend Molly Hollister and they were both going to Ohio State. Tom was also good friends with Scott but Scott never understood why Tom wouldn't hang out with him anymore. I assumed it was because he was Tim's brother and Tim was mad I broke up with him for Chad. I had no idea that Chad was friends with Tom until they walked into the Toy Store that day.
I just wanted Chad to go away so I told Steph gave me the heads up if they came back while I was on my shift. My back was turned when Stephanie muttered he was there. I crouched down behind the glass case filled with collectible Star Wars toys. It was too late, he saw me.
I didn't want anything to ruin my relationship with Scott. I was done playing games and denying my attraction to Chad would have been impossible if we got together to catch up. I told Steph she needed to make sure Chad stayed away from me but Stephanie was the person who was trying to keep me away from Scott.
Scott was finally free from his ex-fiancé who he was so worried would commit suicide when he called off the engagement. He could never break it off with her but he was so concerned that I'd never leave Chad. Being friends was not an option, being apart was excruciating, and being together was incredibly shameful.
I was just 17 and we have now been married for 17 years when our past came back to haunt us in Los Angeles.
It was May 2014 when I went to dinner with Christine Durant the night before moving trucks left our home in Columbus for Los Angeles. She was incredibly upset knowing I would no longer be able to go to concerts with her. She was begging me to stay, telling me we'd get there and I'd find my dream but it wouldn't be where Scott belonged. That we'd learn we weren't right for each other. Her friend told me that her friend had a crush on Scott and I always suspected something. I didn't like to hang out at OSU tailgate parties. I let him live his life and I lived mine with Christine going to concerts and creating Modern Material.
We'd spent the last 8 years making jewelry and t-shirts and selling them at festivals in Columbus, Ohio. We worked for Limited Brands and a China based manufacturing company designing t-shirts for a brand called Campus Couture. All Christine and I did was have fun. We weren't trying to build a business and profit from our creations. We loved trying to get backstage to see a band and give them a t-shirt.
One night in Cleveland I had passes to an after party with Pat Monahan of Train. His bass player started flirting with me at the bar and Christine was having so much fun hanging with the band. I gave the guy a t-shirt since Pat was too busy. He put it on and said we should go back to the bus. I said no but he wanted us to go to the next show in Washington D.C. Christine was so excited and thought it was so cool to be hanging out with Pat's band. I liked the attention. It had been a long time since I'd kissed another guy...Chad...but I turned and walked away. Nothing happened, but Christine and I spent the night in Cleveland.
Scott found out we were hanging out with the band. He read an email I sent to a friend and knew Christine and I were considering going to the next show. He assumed I cheated on him and was incredibly upset. I had never seen him like that. I didn't know what to do. It was the first time Christine has been happy since Jack took his life 6 months earlier. I wasn't going to cheat on him but the idea of hanging out with bands was too much for him to trust so I started an online store for Modern Material to sell our t-shirts and jewelry.
CHRIS CORNELL -
The glue that held our bond together was Chris Cornell. Anytime he came to Columbus we'd be there. I was obsessed with his new album Scream. Die hard Soundgarden fans hated it but I loved the hip hop Timbaland blend with his rock vocals. It was different and fun and Christine and I drove up to the Cleveland House of Blues on a weeknight, first stopping on a shopping trip to buy accessories for Modern Material. It was our first time out of town since the last trip that caused so much distress so we agreed I would spend the night at Christine's and go to work the next morning.
We'd been going to shows together for years and this Cornell performance was my favorite. It was so intimate and we pushed our way to the front. Christine and I played a little game while we spent hours waiting for a show to start. Depending on the type of crowd, she was either my mother or we were either Lesbian Lovers. It was her way of assuring Scott no more guys would be trying to hook up with me. At Cornell shows we played the Lesbian lover role but at a Switchfoot concert we went for the mom role. The show spectacular. Chris was so close I could see his piercing blue eyes. What a beautiful man, no wonder Christine got Jack hooked on his music.
After a 3 hour set by Cornell who played almost 30 songs from his catalog, it was 2am when we got our car from Valet, drove 2 hours home, and arrived at Christine's house. I spent the night in Jack's old room and just laid there thinking maybe he was there watching me sleeping in his old bed. Rumors were that his spirit was still in the house and Christine was crushed when she had sell the house.
Chris Cornell was like this guardian angel for me after Jack's suicide. There were nights Christine was at home in bed crying and I couldn't get her out to see a live show like Citizen Cope, The Kooks or Train. I had just discovered Twitter and started following Chris. When she was having a bad night I'd send her one of his tweets. "Hey Christine! Chris just said he thinks the tiles on the floor of the bathroom look like a goat!" We had so much fun that tour following him on Twitter.
But in May 2014 when Scott and I left for Los Angeles, I was so upset for her trying to convince me to stay by questioning if Scott and I should still be together. Trust was never something that we had. Once a cheater, always a cheater. Scott and I tried so hard to forget about how we started our relationship. Not one person who knew us outside Bluestone knew anything about his engagement to Shannon or my boyfriend Chad. They just didn't exist. Not even Christine knew the details of our romance. My life started with Stephanie attempting to kill herself because I didn't know how to be her friend.
A year after moving to Los Angeles I was working for a manufacturing company when a song came on the radio. My co-worker started laughing and said,
"This is the weirdest song I have ever heard. This band is singing about filling potholes with more cement." I heard it and it sounded oddly familiar but she missed the name of the band. The next day it came on again. I just knew! I knew who it was! I asked her to tell me who it was. Twenty One Pilots.
A sense of pride swept over me greater than any of my career accomplishments. They did it! They had a song on the radio. I knew at that moment what was missing from my life. Promoting these bands nobody knew was like coaching an athlete. When they finally win a championship you realize how proud you are of their work and you played a little role. Screw all my designs sitting on the shelves at Target or Bath & Body Works. I wasn't getting rewarded for my talent or sales.
Then a memory of an idea struck me when I was watching a room full of people at the A&R Music Bar wearing Ohio State t-shirts surrounding Josh Dun on the drums while Tyler Joseph was jumping off speakers in their skeleton suits. Where was the camaraderie among music fans that share the same passion like sports fans have? Where was THAT group of friends that got together and celebrated the music that defined their lives? What if everyone was wearing band t-shirts with lyrics that resonated with their spirit instead of all the Team Spirit bullshit everyone has at a sporting event? When you're depressed and feel all alone, nobody is there to give you a high five and start cheering. Jack was no longer with us because the jocks bullied him.
Now that I was living in LA, surely I could find someone to help me build a lifestyle brand for music fans. I knew Christine's husband James Christian was a record producer but she hadn't spoken to him in years since Jack's death. I hadn't spoken to her in a year so I contacted James and invited him out to dinner. I told him the story of what Christine and I used to do for Modern Material in Columbus and about that moment with Twenty One Pilots. All I wanted was a little help getting a licensing business going, just like we had done for Campus Couture. James left our meeting inspired and invited Scott and I to his music club in Hollywood.
The next week while sitting at the club another memory struck. I told James about how my friend from CCAD and I wanted to start a retail store like The House Of Blues in Columbus for the music venues. His wife, Christine and I worked on the Campus Couture line together so it seemed like such a perfect fit for what I'd already started doing with Modern Material. I also begged him to book Twenty One Pilots but he said they didn't even have enough fans to play a show at the Basement, the smallest venue.
James was so intrigued by these concepts and told me how he thought we could combine them with his network in the music industry. We made a deal to be 50/50 partners and started building a Lyrical Lifestyle Brand.
My time with James deserves to be a story told on its own. Things just clicked between us. I'd tell him what I did for Modern Material back in Columbus and he'd take me around Hollywood wining and dining people. Things were moving so quickly and Scott felt like we were getting too close and he might get the wrong impression. Memories of the Cleveland incident were beginning to consume us when I wouldn't get home until 2am after being out with James. I realized I needed to focus on the business, not being James's friend.
But James was so broken. He wanted me to know more about Jack but when he'd start talking about him I'd change the subject. I wasn't ready to tell him. I was afraid if we shared that bond we'd cross into a territory that wasn't conductive to the business. I was not ready to remember what happened. I was not ready for him to know that I knew Jack or that Christine had called me for help. I could see the pain in his eyes and it pierced through my steel wall to my soul.
I walked up to the bar looking for James after a very emotional call with Scott. He rushed over to me with tears in his eyes, grabbed my hand and pulled me into the dark. He was stumbling for words.
"A conversation with a lady who just lost her son caught me off guard. Nobody but a parent who lost their child can understand what that feels like but I can," James said clearly distraught. I felt like I was at a fork in the road. Do I take the path and tell him about Jack and Christine and everything I experienced with them, or do I turn the other way and keep it strictly business?
I chose the business. I knew how much energy it took to be Christine's shoulder to cry on and I wasn't about to go down that path with another man when Scott had a hard enough time dealing with Stephanie and Christine's needs.