Woman plans suicide awareness event in Pullman
Moscow-Pullman Daily News - 2/10/2018
Feb. 10--Like many Pullman residents, Shelley Calissendorff got word of Tyler Hilinski's suicide the same day it happened in January.
Calissendorff, 50, never knew the Washington State University quarterback who wore No. 3 for the Cougars, much less what was going through his mind when he shot himself in the head that Tuesday afternoon in his apartment.
What she does know is how hard it can be for a person to reach out for help in a moment of darkness. Calissendorff has been there before.
The morning after Hilinski's death, she woke up with a goal: to get Pullman talking openly about suicide in a community-wide event.
"I felt as though I was in a position to try to do something in this community to make it better -- to try to help. I want to bring some good from this horrible, tragic event," Calissendorff said.
At the age of 18, Calissendorff was diagnosed with major clinical depression. She said she received an anxiety diagnosis in her 30s and was most recently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
She has treated the conditions with medications ever since. Right before her 40th birthday, Calissendorff said she survived a suicide attempt.
"I know how hard it is, as a woman, to reach out for help with mental health issues. And I believe that it's even more challenging for guys, for men, because there's so many social reasons, right? And stigma is a big part of it, feeling like you're going to be judged," Calissendorff said.
She has since formed the #3 Memorial Fund and a corresponding committee, which Calissendorff said has been visited by law enforcement officials as well as a mental health professional during the committee's last three meetings.
Calissendorff said money raised will go toward organizing a large-scale mental health event before the semester's end, where she hopes to recruit outside speakers, hold a showing of a documentary on suicide and host a panel of experts to engage in an open dialogue about suicide.
Calissendorff has sent out more than 70 letters to local restaurants, coffee shops and bars asking them to donate a percentage of their proceeds Feb. 20 to the #3 Memorial Fund.
Rhonda Witt-Miller, owner of Cougar Country Drive-In in Pullman and a member of the #3 Memorial Fund committee, organized a deal for customers earlier this month, donating 25 percent of a day's proceeds to the fund. Witt-Miller told the Daily News the restaurant raised just short of $400. Cougar Country will donate another 5 percent of its proceeds Feb. 20.
"I had an employee commit suicide four years ago," Witt-Miller said. "I just think there's too much stigma surrounding suicide."
The memorial fund is advertised this weekend in the Daily News and The Lewiston Tribune in an insert featuring a large, red "3" and the purple and turquoise suicide awareness ribbon, along with the fund's Facebook page and sponsors, Cougar Country Drive-In , Redding, Calif.-based Mach 1 Machinery, Inc. and Steve Manning Construction.
Calissendorff wants to start seeing the inserts posted in windows of residences as a symbol of ending a stigma surrounding mental health. Inserts can also be found at Cougar Country, Rico's Pub in Pullman and The Market at WSU.
"We wanted everybody to look at it and remember Tyler, but we also wanted people to look at it and realize that this is more than just Tyler," Calissendorff said. "This is about everybody who's ever struggled with suicidal thoughts or who's ever attempted to take their own lives and for all of us who are friends and family of people who have died."
Information about the #3 Memorial Fund can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NumberThreeMemorialFund/.
Taylor Nadauld can be reached at (208) 883-4630, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tnadauldarg.
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