Candlelight vigil held to raise awareness of suicide, depression

September 17th, 2010    Author: Brett A. Roller    Filed Under: News

The Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board held its ninth annual candlelight vigil for the victims of suicide Thursday, Sept. 9 at the Union Township Veteran’s Memorial Park.

The vigil is held each year to remember those that took their own lives in the last year, but it is also a means of raising awareness of the growing problem of depression.

“Suicide takes a person’s life against their own natural will to live,” keynote speaker Gary Peterson said. “Unfortunately it is looked at as a taboo.”

Peterson lost his son Curt David Peterson to suicide in 1999. He said suicide is the result of the disease depression, a treatable disease that can affect anyone.

"Depression is the issue and suicide is the result," Peterson said. "No one who is healthy wants to die. The fact that medicine and therapy can prevent suicide should tell us something; should tell us there is hope for others."

Clermont County Commissioner Ed Humphrey read a proclamation declaring the week of Sept. 5, 2010 to be suicide prevention week in the county. In 2009, 39 people committed suicide in Clermont County, which was 10 more than in 2008. This year 15 Clermont County residents have taken their lives.

"Suicide is a serious health issue impacting America. For every three homicides in the United States there is one suicide," Humphrey said. "The number of people in Clermont County that die by suicide has been rising in the last several years and we want to make prevention a county wide priority."

Peterson said that one in 20 American teens will experience depression and there are 500 cases of depression for every one death by suicide.

Mike and Jayne Wessel also spoke of the loss of their son to suicide in 2006. They stressed the importance of creating awareness of mental health issues and knowing how to spot the signs of depression in friends and family.

"Aaron lost a battle we didn't know he was fighting," Jayne Wessel said. "We're all here because we lost a battle with mental illness, but the war is still waging."

She said she has learned to face life head on with her husband by her side and move on from the loss of her son. She said the most important thing that helped her move on was her faith in God. Wessel said that suicide is a taboo in society, but much more so among Christians.

"The truth is Christians can become depressed and commit suicide, just like they can die from a heart attack," Wessel said.

As with any disease, the key to stopping it is early recognition and seeking help. The Mental Health and Recovery Board provides a 24-hour Clermont County Crisis Hotline for anyway experiences problems with depression or mental illness. Chair of the Clermont Suicide Prevention Coalition Virginia Dennis said the line is available for those experiencing symptoms and those that believe their loved ones are experiencing symptoms. The hotline number is (513) 528-SAVE (7238). The hotline also offers an online chat service during high volume hours at www.528save.org.

The names of those that committed suicide last year in Clermont County and those whose committed suicide in the past and were remembered by participants in the vigil were read aloud and a candle was lit in their memory. The West Clermont "By Request Choir" under the direction of Jeffery Riel sang several songs throughout the program. The ceremony concluded by releasing balloons in to the darkening evening sky.

"People die from mental illness, just like they die from cancer," said Dennis. "However, there is such a stigma surrounding suicide that those left behind tend to suffer in silence. This vigil is an opportunity for all those who have been touched by suicide, to come together, grieve, and heal."

There are several local support groups that are in place to help parents and other friends and loved ones of people who have committed suicide such as The Compassion Friends. The friends meet at 7 p.m. every fourth Tuesday of the month at St. Timothy Episcopal Church on Beechmont Avenue.

For more information on suicide prevention visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at afsp.org or www.mentalhealthamerica.net.
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