Nonprofit to host events to raise suicide awareness
Death by any means is a tragedy. Once a life is gone, a dream is dashed. Hope for Life is an organization that gives support for survivors of suicide and those struggling with thoughts of suicide in making sure they never lose sight of their dreams.
According to the National Mental Health Association, one in five adults has a mental health condition. That’s more than 40 million Americans, more than the populations of New York and Florida combined, and in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it was reported that more than 42,000 Americans took their own lives and almost half a million Americans received medical care for self-inflicted injuries.
Hope for Life is a nonprofit organization that was created to provide support to individuals who have lost loved ones to suicide or for those experiencing thoughts of suicide in the Southern Maryland community.
“I just want people to know that there is help out there, and there are people out there listening,” said Shannon Rawlings, head of Hope for Life. “There’s always been a stigma attached to suicide and people don’t want to talk about it, but people need to have that conversation.”
Rawlings, a sur vivor of suicide, as well as attempted suicide, lost her brother, Sean, to suicide close to five years ago. His death was an “unimaginable loss” for Rawlings, and with feeling that there was no one to understand how she felt, she started looking for support groups and outreach programs. She did find some groups, but none of them were located in Southern Maryland. That is how her idea for Hope for Life was born.
According to Rawlings’ Facebook page, “The rising rate of suicide and attempted suicide is heartbreaking. Suicide is the number 10 cause of death for all ages, and the number two cause of death for ages 15-24.”
Hope for Life will be hosting two events this summer: The Hope for Life boats, bikes and cars poker run which will take place Saturday, Aug. 5, at Gilligan’s Pier starting at 11 a.m. The second event, the Hope For Life Community Walk for Survivors of Suicide Loss, will begin at noon and end at 3 p.m. at The Greene Turtle in La Plata. Check in and walk-up registration will start at 9:30 a.m., music and karaoke with DJ Bulldog will follow immediately right after the walk.
“These events are for everyone,” Rawlings said. “It is to help raise money to purchase materials, equipment and supplies to fix up and make repairs to the youth outreach program.”
Hope for Life purchased a 5-acre farm in Newburg in April, which it will name Al’mosta Farm Too. It is for young children and teens who suffer from depression due to bullying, abuse and abandonment. Therapy animals will be used there.
Mike Nelson, 34, a member of the Hope for Life committee said, “There’s a lot of help out there especially now with so many celebrities that have passed away” from suicide, “and because of their passing it has brought a greater awareness to the topic. It is no longer a taboo subject.”
He, too, has personal experience with the subject. “I was in a boat in the middle of the ocean when I got the news,” Nelson said. “My brother passed away from committing suicide.”
Often, when someone commits suicide, family members do not want to tell others — especially their close friends — how that person died. The truth about how that person dies is often kept a secret because of fear or embarrassment that it could potentially bring to the family.
“Suicide is the ultimate escape from painful emotions and the only method of escaping painful emotions that actually works. It works permanently to escape pain,” said Chuck Ruby, a Waldorf psychologist. “That’s why it comes to people’s mind at a time when they’re in intense pain or long-lasting pain.” They might think, “’If I kill myself, I am not going to feel this terrible pain anymore,’ and that’s why suicidal thinking starts.”
Ruby said his work at the Pinnacle Center in Waldorf enhances one’s personal satisfaction, strengthens family ties and cultivates solid social relationships, and also helps the family understand what their loved one is going through.
“Suicidal thoughts are rational, and there are some clinicians that disagree with me on this point, where some would say that thought of suicide is irrational where it’s a sign of mental illness,” Ruby said. “But to me, it is not, it is very clear and rational. It makes sense, it’s the only way to permanently end the emotional pain. I say this not to endorse it, but to demystify it so that family members get to understand this person’s thinking. The worst thing you can do when someone is going through a difficult situation is to think that they’re” not being rational. “Adding more emotional pain is not the answer, it’s going to make it worse.”
Those in need of help and someone to talk to can call the crisis intervention hotlines for Charles County at 301-6453336, operated by the Center for Abused Persons in Waldorf. People in need of assistance can also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1800-273-8255).
“A lot of survivors are willing to talk and help those who are going through this,” Nelson said. “This not something that you get over; it’s something that you begin to learn how to live it. It’s the new normal.”