NEWARK – Todd Feasel was 13 years old when his father died from suicide 30 years ago.
He felt hopeless during that time, but he got through it with the love and support from family and his faith. He’s now the clinical director for Mental Health and Recovery of Licking and Knox Counties and a father to three children of his own.
“That’s one of the things I would have missed out on if I had given in to hopelessness,” he said. “I could have very easily been just a statistic.”
But his message was positive.
“We got through the time, and you will too,” he said. “You do get through it.”
Feasel shared his story with about 30 people who participated in a 5K walk and candlelight vigil Tuesday night for National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, which is September.
More than 800,000 people die worldwide by suicide each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Penny Sitler, executive director of Mental Health America of Licking County, said the walk is meant to erase the stigma of mental illness and offer a chance for people to remember lost loved ones. She said people who have suffered from losing a loved one to suicide say the best way to help them get through it is by talking about their loved one.
“They don’t want their family member or friend to be forgotten because even though they’re gone and they died in a tragic way, they lived.” Sitler said. “It’s really important for people to be able to talk about that person.”
People often don’t want to mention a person who has died from suicide to their loved one, Sitler said.
“But the worst thing you can do is act like they never lived,” she said.
John Johnson attended the walk and vigil for the first time. His younger sister, Pam Nayman, died by suicide in 2009. He said the walk puts a face to suicide.
“The people that are left behind, the survivors, we need to know that there are others out there and there shouldn’t be shame and stigma attached to it,” he said.
Johnson is a member of Licking County Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors Team, referred to as the LOSS Team, which responds to the scene of a death by suicide and meets with family members to help them process the event and provide resources.
“It’s really helped me to be a member of that team and just to be able to talk to other people who are going through the same thing, to be able to let them know that hope’s there,” he said.
Here is the contact information for suicide prevention programs:
- Pathways of Central Ohio can be reached by phone at 211 or 740-345-HELP. The Crisis Hotline is for services including suicide prevention. Specially trained crisis response specialists assist callers in defining problems and feelings and explore possible solutions.
- Mental Health America of Licking County can be contacted at 740-522-1341 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Mental Health America offers a suicide prevention program that provides depression and suicide prevention education to middle and high school students in Licking County.
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). Found in The Newark Advocate September 7, 2016