DANVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) – For Abbie Brandenburg, and many who struggle with mental health, it can seem impossible. Now, her family and friends want to make sure her story doesn’t end with her death.
“The struggle that she was going through didn’t seem like it was impossible to me,” Chrisitan Cunningham, Brandenburg’s fiancé, said.
Brandenburg had been missing for several days. It wasn’t until much persistence and a special dive team that she and her car were pulled from Lake Vermilion last week.
Since the beginning, the Danville community has been surrounding her family and fiance with love and support, praying for her return home.
Cunningham said he knew there was battle she was fighting, no one could see, and ultimately that’s what took her life.
“Gentle, sweet, selfless. I mean she always thought of everybody before herself,” Cunningham said.
Those are only a few ways Cunningham describes his fiancé.
“We loved each other a lot and hard. That was my best friend,” he said.
Like millions of others in the United States, Brandenburg suffered with mental health disorder, and again, like millions of others, she couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Cunningham said when she left that day, he had a sinking feeling because of her past with mental health, and his worst fears came true.
“He said, what is your gut telling you? I said my faith said I can bring her home safe and untouched. But my guts telling me she’s in the water,” he said.
His gut was right. Six days later, after leading their own searches, begging police to check the lake, and finally calling a special dive team to help, they pulled her and her car out of Lake Vermilion.
“I’ve gone through it, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I wouldn’t wish it on someone I hate. Because now I don’t look forward to going to bed at night, and can’t look forward to waking up,” he said. “The person I want to be with is not here, and nobody else’s presence can change that.”
Now Cunningham and many others in the community have a call to leaders in Danville and Vermilion County. They said things need to change so this doesn’t happen to anyone else.
“People’s lives are at stake and it matters. I mean, we let her sit in the water for 6 days because of laziness really,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham said he wished law enforcement in the community had more empathy and urgency in the case.
We reached out to Vermilion County Sheriff and Danville Police, neither have returned the call.
There are several things Cunningham and others in the community want to take action to change.
Some can be quick changes, like putting railing up around bodies of water. He said if there was a railing where Brandenburgs’ car went, it might have stopped her car, or at least shown where the car went in. Speeding up the investigation and finding her car and body.
He also wants to bring more mental health resources to the area.
If you or someone you know needs help, you can always call the national suicide prevention lifeline at 800-273-8255.