Non­profit to host events to raise sui­cide aware­ness

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By CERONE WHITE cwhite@somd­ Twit­ter: @Cerone_IndyNews

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.”

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