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Metro family that lost wife, mom to suicide urges those suffering to ‘reach out for help’

HARRISONVILLE, Mo. -- A metro family who lost their wife and mother to suicide is speaking out, trying to let people who feel hopeless know there's help out there.

With the death of Kansas City native Kate Spade this week, people are talking about mental health and suicide prevention. The NYPD said Spade took her own life. The 55-year-old was being treated for depression and anxiety, according to her family.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in the last 20 years, suicides have increased in all age groups, with the highest spikes for women in Spade’s age group -- ages 45 to 64.

"We've got to stop this," said Scott Hilworth, who lost his wife to suicide two years ago said. "We have to stop this."

The day before Mother's Day 2016, Heather Hilworth tried to take her life in front of her husband at their Wichita home. She died later at the hospital, leaving behind Scott and their then 10- and 12-year-old kids Dylan and Brianna.

The Hilworth family

One of the hardest moments for him was telling his son he had to say goodbye.

"And he says, 'I love you mama. I'm gonna miss you,'" Hilworth said.

Heather was 43 when she took her life after beating the odds of a serious illness.

"She was damn near seven years clean of cancer," Hilworth said. "She fought it. She won."

According to the CDC, about 16 percent of people who take their lives don't have a history of mental health issues.

Scott Hilworth said he didn't see any warning sides of suicide, other than Heather laying out important paper work just before she died.

"She was fairly depressed that, number one, she didn't get to make the choice to not have any more children," Hilworth said. "Cancer took that choice from her cause she had to have a double mastectomy and cholecystectomy."

The CDC says suicide rates went up by more than a quarter from 1999 to 2016. They increased by 45 percent in Kansas and more than 36 percent in Missouri.

"Reach out for help," Brianna Hilworth said. "Don't let it get in your head. Don't attempt it."

The CDC says the group that had the highest rate of increases is women between 45 and 64, close to the ages of Heather Hilworth and Kate Spade.

Brianna Hilworth is 14, close to the age of Kate Spade's daughter, and feels for her loss.

"Some people think it's OK if you're upset or something to just say, 'Man up,' or 'Get over it,' or 'Forget about it. You'll be OK.' Sometimes that's not the case. Sometimes it's the case where you actually need to reach out. You need to get help. You can't tell someone to man up because maybe what they're going through, they can't man up from."

Brianna said her mom often isolated herself when her father was away working out of town.

"I think schools need to have health classes at a younger age cause maybe if my brother and I saw those signs, we could have done something," Brianna said.

Not long after Heather's death, the Hilworth family moved and bought a farm in Pleasant Gap, Missouri, to be closer to family as they grieve.

They hope sharing their story will encourage people who need it to get help so no one else has to deal with such a painful loss.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, we urge you to get help immediately.

Go to a hospital, call 911 or call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433).

Click on the boxes below for our FOX 4 You Matter reports and other helpful phone numbers and resources.