News Article Details

Family suicide leads to project on mental health

Daily Telegram - 3/10/2017

March 08--A Superior High School student aims to shed light on mental health issues in the area with her senior project, "Pain is real, but so is hope."

Destiny Elliott hosts a community event where visitors can collect information and talk with agency representatives 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in the school library.

"I believe people are terrified to talk about it," she said.

The 18-year-old said that she thinks people are more willing to admit they have a drug abuse problem than a mental health issue. She wants to encourage people to learn more about resources for themselves or their loved ones.

"Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it," Elliott said. "To make it better, that's my ultimate goal."

The senior initially planned to launch a book club for students in Northern Lights Elementary School's latchkey program for her senior project.

But in December, her stepfather committed suicide.

"It was completely random," Elliott said, and caught the whole family unaware.

"We were planning to go to Florida for Christmas break," she said.

Elliott's stepfather went to work Dec. 12, or so his family thought. He never came home and they filed a missing person report the following day. Police informed them of his death that afternoon.

"It was shocking, like something you see in a movie but it happened to us," Elliott said.

To this day, they have questions.

"We knew he had anxiety for a long time, but we didn't know he was suffering from anything else," Elliott said. "He hid it. He didn't tell anybody how he felt."

And it left her determined to make a difference.

"He didn't reach out," Elliott said. "That is what inspired me to get the groups together."

Her mother agreed that they should share the story. Elliott's stepfather was known in the area, as is his family.

"If people see a real story, it will open their eyes," she said.

It's been an eye-opening few months for the senior herself. As she called around to area resources, she found that the majority of mental health providers hail from Minnesota.

"I realized how complicated this makes it for families," Elliott said, especially if their insurance doesn't cover Minnesota providers and they don't have the funds to pay privately.

Elliott considered having speakers at the event, but chose to make it as casual and laid-back as she could. Her goal is to make people informed and aware.

"To not be afraid to get the help you need, because it's very important to take care of your body and mind," Elliott said.

As she wrote on her event poster: "There is no such thing as a mental health illness too small, or too big. It is OK not to be OK."

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(c)2017 the Superior Telegram (Superior, Wis.)

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