News Article Details

Mother, daughter discuss experience with suicide prevention

St. Joseph News-Press - 9/10/2018

Sept. 10--For many people, suicide is more than a statistic.

"We've learned a lot about (suicide) over the past 10 years through experience and through research," says Kerry Harvey, whose daughter, Colby, was diagnosed with anxiety and depression at 16 as well as borderline personality disorder. "We want to prevent as many of these as we can."

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), nearly 45,000 Americans die by suicide each year. Sept. 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day, but the entire month is meant to raise awareness of the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States.

While there's no single cause for suicide, according to the AFSP, it most often occurs when multiple stressors come together, resulting in an intense feeling of despair. Conditions like depression and anxiety coupled with substance abuse can further contribute to these feelings of hopelessness.

Kerry remembers talking to her daughter and remembers her saying that she didn't know why she felt the way she did. She would feel overwhelmed with it all, and the thought of having to live the rest of her life in such a condition occasionally felt like too much.

It's one of the reasons why Kerry and her daughter would participate in Out of the Darkness walks throughout the area, events that give those struggling with thoughts of suicide the opportunity to open up about their feelings while providing them with resources and people who want to help.

Kerry is the chairperson of the Oct. 14 walk at Bishop LeBlond High School this year. She hopes to raise money through the event to help with research through the AFSP that contributes to suicide prevention.

"One of their big catchphrases is 'Talk saves lives.' They want people to talk about it. I want people to talk about," Kerry says. "I want people to realize that you can get help. There's so much (information) out there now. Be aware, learn, talk. Don't feel embarrassed to talk about it. Don't stigmatize it. It's an illness just like any other. Learn about it just like you would if you had a family member who had cancer or diabetes. How do you treat that? What do you do and how do you help them?"

More than 550 Out of the Darkness Walk events were held in 2017, and Colby intends to be a speaker at this year's event.

"I think our community needs to be brought together as one to be able to show support and be able to put out those resources and say, 'OK, here's where you can go if you're struggling,'" Colby says.

She remembers feeling a sense of hopelessness in high school, as if she wouldn't amount to anything due to her personal struggles. But now, 10 years later, she has graduated from nursing school and recently was hired to work on a psychiatric unit.

"I've been in a psychiatric (hospital); I've been in the place that I'm actually working," she laughs.

But, just as her mother did for her, talking can save lives. And on Oct. 14, that's exactly what she plans to do.

"I'm just going to be talking about how you can succeed," Colby says. "Mental health does not define you. Your illness doesn't define you."

The St. Joseph Out of Darkness Community Walk will be held from 1 p.m. (check-in and registration) to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 14 at Bishop LeBlond High School. You can register online by visiting Kerry's Facebook event page: St. Joseph Out Of The Darkness Community Walk. Money raised will go toward the AFSP's efforts to support research studies into the genetic, biological and behavioral factors contributing to suicide as well as support the organization's outreach programs and educate the public on suicide prevention techniques.

Daniel Cobb can be reached at daniel.cobb@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NPNowCobb.

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(c)2018 the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.)

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