By Kristin Bednarski
Residents gathered Sept. 20 for a quiet ceremony at Veterans’ Memorial Park in Union Township to remember those lost to suicide.
The ceremony was hosted by the Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board, the Clermont County Suicide Prevention Coalition and Mental Health America of Southwest Ohio.
Dr. Lee Ann Watson, associate director of the mental health and recovery board, said this is the eleventh year they have hosted a vigil for those affected by suicide including family members and friends.
“We do it to provide families with a chance to come and be with others who are affected,” Watson said. “To remember loved ones and to raise awareness that suicide is preventable.”
During the ceremony Watson read the names of the 27 Clermont County residents who have died from suicide this year. A candle was lit for each of the individuals as well as individuals whose loved ones attended the event.
Once candles were lit, the West Clermont “By Request” choir performed while guests took a moment to remember those affected by suicide.
Family members and friends of those lost to suicide were able to release a balloon in honor of their loved one.
Darlene Sigman and Sharon Vincent, both of Eastgate, said they have not been directly affected by suicide, but know people who have, and believe in raising awareness about suicide.
“I just know it’s an ever-growing thing,” Vincent said. “The more we recognize it, the more we can prevent it.”
Sigman said having an event where family members can come together is beneficial.
“It’s important to do this type of thing to remember,” Sigman said. “And to remember it’s out there.”
Katie Shepard, another guest at the event, said when she was 20 years old her mother committed suicide.
Shepard said she came to the event because her daughter was singing in the choir, but said she also used that as an excuse to come and see what it was all about.
“It’s been a process of accepting and letting go,” Shepard said about her mother’s death.
Shepard said being around her mom in the years before she committed suicide, she became aware that mental health plays a huge role. Shepard said she was glad to see organizations addressing mental health issues in the county.
“It’s nice to see a community come together and do something like this,” Shepard said about the vigil.
Rachel Bayer, director of crisis services at Child Focus, said there is definitely a stigma attached to suicide.
She said one of the most disturbing statistics is that more people die each year by their own hand than by homicides.
“It is a problem,” Bayer said about the growing number of suicides.
Bayer said after someone commits suicide they always hear that there were signs. She said raising awareness about the issue, especially to friends and family members of someone dealing with mental health issues, is the key to prevention.
“I think it’s important that if you or a loved one is concerned, pick up the phone,” Bayer said. “It’s not just for individuals who are suicidal.”
Bayer said the crisis hotline they operate is (513) 528-SAVE. She said trained mental health professionals operate the line and are there to help anyone in need.
Bayer said they are also working to develop an online chat and other tools to help individuals who may need someone to talk to.
For more information about suicide prevention visit www.ccmhrb.org.