Group raises suicide awareness
An organization in Jefferson County is hosting an event Sunday to raise awareness of suicide and how it can be prevented.
The group is Fairfield Cares and the event is from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Sunday at the Fairfield Public Library. The featured speakers are Pat McGovern, suicide prevention coordinator from the Iowa Department of Public Health, Scott Terry, director of the Ardent Counseling Center, and attempted suicide survivors Janet McDonald and Tom Allen.
The meeting is being called to discuss the recent suicides in the area and how further suicides can be prevented. Suicide prevention has been the talk of the nation the past few weeks in the wake of the death of actor Robin Williams Aug. 11.
According to the group’s flyer advertising Sunday’s meeting, “Too many Jefferson County residents die by suicide each year. There have been 20 suicides in Jefferson County from 2008-2014 and four already this year.”
The mission of Fairfield Cares is to educate the public that suicide is a public health problem that is preventable when help is available.
The members of Fairfield Cares have all been deeply touched by suicide in one way or another, whether it was contemplating it themselves or seeing its effects on friends and loved ones. Toni Johnson said she was once in a dark place in her life where she had no hope for the future.
“I had somehow been given a phone number for domestic crisis and I believe that the only reason I am here today is because of that voice on the other end of the line,” she said. “I don’t even remember what they said, but what I do remember is that whoever it was, they pulled me back, just by being there, just by helping me to feel, in that moment, not so alone. Sometimes it is just about getting through that moment.”
Fairfield Cares member Minca Borg said help like the kind Johnson received can come from a friend, mentor, family member, or even a stranger.
“We believe suicide prevention is everyone’s business,” she said. “Suicide is a symptom of extreme suffering. Mental and emotional wellness are vital for all of us. We want to get rid of the stigma around mental health issues, and replace it with the knowledge, resources and social support people need to thrive.”
Matthew Lindberg-Work has known at least five people who have killed themselves. Two were childhood friends who killed themselves in their young adult years, and the other three were classmates at Maharishi University of Management.
“Around [my senior year], I began to feel strongly that the MUM campus and the Fairfield community both need to be better prepared to help when one of us is struggling,” he said.
In the 10 years since, Lindberg-Work has engaged in projects to increase support and awareness of the issue at MUM and throughout the community. One problem Fairfield Cares has identified is that suicide is a taboo subject and thus rarely discussed openly in families.
“Families don’t talk about it; they just don’t know how,” Johnson said. “On one side of the community, their loved one doesn’t get to go to heaven. On the other side, it is not a progression to enlightenment. For many families, a ‘suicide’ would null and void any insurance to help the family. There is shame and guilt that family members carry that doesn’t allow them to talk about it and there are just not the resources here, and the ones that are here, nobody knows how to access.”
Cathleen Casey & Rob Hubler said there are a few telltale signs a person is on the verge of suicide. They mentioned isolating oneself from others, drinking and drugging, or using prescription drugs. If a person talks constantly about death, says goodbye to everyone, and tells people what should be done with their stuff, they may be contemplating suicide.
Casey and Hubler said some of the common reasons people turn to suicide are feeling trapped in a particular lifestyle and a fear of taking responsibility for their own life. That can, in turn, lead to depression, feeling useless and feeling like they’re not measuring up to others’ standards.
The best way the public can help people contemplating suicide is to learn how to communicate with them.
“Do not think for one second that our individual assistance is not important or that we cannot make a difference,” Casey and Hubler said. “[We must] observe our children’s behavior and their friends’.”