Death is inevitable. When it comes by means of one's own hand, it's sad. But everyone is talking, and that's good because suicide is not an independent, isolated event. It affects everyone, especially that person's family or caregiver. I don't think that there is anything worse than the feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, grief and, yes, guilt, that family members go through.
This does not relate just to suicide, but to any form of mental illness when it strikes a family member. Historically, people could not talk about such things. It was covered up, hidden. But now, we know differently.
Talking really does help. Not just for the survivors, who are the people left after the death of a loved one by suicide, but community members also. Talking helps us learn how to speak about mental illness and encourage others to seek support because help is out there.
The National Alliance for Mental Illness has created educational programs that help people to understand what is happening, why it is happening, how to accept what is happening and cope with the results. NAMI offers a platform for supporting each other through this extremely stressful situation.
When my daughter was first diagnosed, at the age of about 10, there was literally, no one to turn to. No one understood what was happening; what I was going through. Most people thought, myself included, that I had done something wrong as a parent. How could I have failed her so miserably? Now I know better. Another parent that I met likes to use the phrase -- "I didn't cause it. I can't cure it. But I can learn to cope with it."
NAMI's support and education programs were developed by its members, which include families with a member who has mental illness and persons with mental illness. The programs include the Family-to-Family Education Program, family support groups, Basics (an education course focusing on caregivers and families with children with mental illness), Basics support groups, Peer-to-Peer groups, parent-teacher programs and more. Some of the programs are available through NAMI Portage County.
I encourage anyone involved in this type of situation to please call your local Mental Health and Recovery Board (in Portage County -- 330-673-1756) or go online to www.NAMI.org, www.NAMIohio.org, or www.namiportagecounty.org, for more information. It is more common than you can possibly imagine.
If you are Portage County resident and want to talk with NAMI members about the programs offered locally, plan to attend the Portage Family Support Group the second and fourth Thursdays of the month, 7 p.m., at the Mental Health & Recovery Board office, 155 E. Main St., Kent. The meeting is open and free.
Carrie Martin, Kent