People gather to remember and to help prevent suicide

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– PHOTOS BY CYNTHIA PRICE

By Cynthia Price

On one of the last days of national Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, Muskegonites gathered to remember their loved ones who have died by suicide, to mourn together and to raise awareness about what needs to be done to avoid more such deaths.

The Suicide Remembrance and Prevention Walk 2019 started off with some very moving speakers, poets and a musician on the Olthoff Stage in downtown Muskegon, then did a short walk around downtown blocks to Jefferson and back to nearby Hackley Park.

More than a memorial, and more than a public awareness event, the walk, which started in 2014, strives to “increase connectedness and healing within our community.”

There did seem to be an increased awareness of the way in which we’re connected to other human beings, as speakers told of their struggles with suicidal thoughts and remembered people close to them who had died of suicide; three spoken word artists used the power of poetry to express grief and confusion; and local guitarist and singer Kwame Kamau subtly extended such musical messages as “You’re beautiful.”

Suicide rates are increasing, and Muskegon County is no exception. Suicide rates, in five-year moving averages, increased nearly ever year from 15.8 per 100,000 in 1999-2003 to 26.6 per 100,000 in 2013-2017; but in the age group under 25, it went from 2 to 4.6 in those same years.

The sponsor, Suicide Prevention Coalition (SPC) is a data-driven group operating through HealthWest, with meetings open to the public on the fourth Wednesday every other month from 12-1:30 p.m., at HealthWest The co-chairs are HealthWest’s Michael Pyne and Scott Teichmer, now at Child Abuse Council. The next meeting is Nov. 20 due to the holidays.

The coalition sponsors two support groups, one for attempt survivors – which Teichmer says is almost unprecedented around the country – at the Mercy Health Hackley Campus boardroom, 1700 Clinton St., on the second Wednesday each month 7-8:30 p.m.; and one for loss survivors, the third Monday of the month from 7-8:30 p.m. at St. Michael’s Catholic Church, 1716 Sixth St., Muskegon. Follow the SPC on Facebook, or for more information email spcmuskegon@gmail.com.

Crisis lines are: national, 800-273-TALK (8255), Muskegon 231-722-HELP (4357).

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