Not long ago, I attended a Suicide Prevention forum in town hosted by our local youth services bureau. A young man from town had taken his own life in November of 2011, and the event was, in part, sponsored by his family. I've known this young man's mom for a long time, and had attempted to go to the calling hours. The line went around the funeral home for hours, and I never did get in to express my condolences. Standing in line that night it was evident that this turn of events had left a big hole in the hearts of all that knew him. A wound, that for his family, will never truly heal.
Fourteen months later, his father spoke at the event and urged people to talk about suicide. "This can't be something that is pushed away or ignored," he said. I couldn't think of a better way to share, than to turn this into a topic for my blog.
The forum featured a variety of experts in addition to local residents who were willing to come forward and tell their story about how a friend or family members suicide forever changed their lives.
John Holt, a sports writer and local news anchor at WFSB, Channel 3, in Hartford, CT, talked about losing his brother to suicide in 1999. He urged those of us in attendance at the forum to "let people know you are there for them."
Another guest speaker, Nena Lake, a licensed social worker, shared some startling statistics. More boys than girls commit suicide and boys tend to use more violent methods like guns or hanging. The greatest number of suicides tend to happen between 3pm and midnight when parents may be at work. She stressed that, "suicide affects all ages, races and socioeconomic levels," she said. "It doesn't discriminate."
The resounding message of the evening was that we should talk about suicide and listen to each others needs. Talk. talk. talk and listen. listen. listen. Pay attention to that "gut" feeling that something maybe amiss. Check in with your kids, ask them if they feel safe, secure, and make sure to tell them often that they can talk to you about anything...even if it hurts. Remove the stigma of suicide by talking about it and being honest and frank with questions.