Liegghito Inspires Mental Health Awareness

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Teens are the most at-risk age group for suicide. Often, it is the teenage years that mental health problems begin to develop and cause problems in daily life.

KnowResolve is a suicide prevention and mental health awareness organization created by Dennis Liegghito, who spoke to sophomores at an assembly Dec. 3. KnowResolve has a “mission to promote mental health and prevent youth suicide through outreach, advocacy and education.”

Liegghito lost his father to suicide when he was 14 and has struggled with his own mental health since.

“It did not matter how many people told me, ‘It is not your fault, it is not your fault’. That is what I believed and that is what I carried with me for at least the next 10 years of my life.” Liegghito said. “I spent every day of those 10 years trying to pretend like this never happened, or that he never existed, or that I did not need him, or that I hated him, and he was a coward.

“What I did not do was talk about it, for a few different reasons. Number one, we were told not to talk about it. We were told that if anyone asked how our father died, to tell them it was an accident. Number two, I did not know anyone who had gone through anything like this before. I did not have any friends at that time that had even lost a parent, let alone to suicide. And number three, I did not want to be seen as a victim. I did not want people to feel sorry for me. I did not want to be different. I wanted to be normal.

“I hid behind humor and sarcasm. I just got up every day and went through the day trying to pretend I was fine, but I was not. I was angry and sad all the time and I felt alone. I felt like nobody would understand what this felt like. I felt like an alien. I turned to drugs and alcohol because I did not want to feel anything. To me, it made more sense to be numb than to be in pain all the time.  I just did not want to feel anything. The problem with that is, you cannot numb the bad without numbing the good, too. Everything dies.”

His words impacted most of the sophomores that he talked to.

“I thought that this presentation was better than most suicide prevention assemblies,” Jagoda Jagustin ’22 said. “It was about a person telling a story, not just telling us to be happy. The fact that therapy did not work for him at first stuck out to me. He is someone with real experience who is alive and knows how hopelessness feels.”

During the presentation, Liegghito performed two songs. The first song, “Know Resolve”, was written in memory of Liegghito’s father. The second song was “Walls” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. He also told the audience how he began KnowResolve and speaking in front of students.

“In a very real way, music and the people I met through it saved my life,” Liegghito said. “I just kept writing, because that was the only way that I knew how to do to deal with this. I wrote a bunch more songs. I got some friends together. We started a band. We recorded an album. I spent the next few years traveling around playing shows, making music with my friends. and feeling things that I thought I would never feel again. Purpose, passion, connection and a reason to look forward. It saved my life.  That eventually lead me to what I am doing today.

“I had been invited to perform that song “Know Resolve” at a conference for people who had lost loved ones to suicide. My mom had given a copy of the CD we made to the lady who started that group and she asked me to come and play that song at their conference. I was overwhelmed in the most beautiful way. To be in this room, with all these other people who had lost someone they loved the same way I lost my dad and share that song with them. That was the day that I knew that I was not alone.”

“I wanted other people to be able to talk about it [suicide]. I did not want other people to have to go through what I went through. That is why I started KnowResolve in 2017. It was just going to be an event, a conference once a year that my friends and I did together. But after some school counselors heard that song and my story they asked if I would come to their school and play the song and tell my story, talk about suicide. Within two years, I was doing that so often that this became my job.”

Liegghito encourages people to speak up when their friends are contemplating suicide and to break down the walls that separate everyone. Speaking to friends and family about feelings can be hard at first but practicing every day can help.

“Suicide is not about death, it is about escaping and not knowing any other way out or feeling like you have tried everything else,” Liegghito said. “When someone’s pressure, problems and pain outweigh their ability to deal with what is going on: that is when suicide becomes a thought. Love is doing the right thing regardless of the consequences. If you love this person, you will risk your relationship with them to get them safe. Recovery is not easy, but it is worth it. You are worth it.”

For those struggling or know someone who is, call (800) 273-TALK or text 741-741.