The Here 4 Hope Coalition of Union County recently launched a new website, here4hope.org, in the hopes of better publicizing tools for people touched by suicide.
The coalition was established in 2009 to reduce the stigma of suicide and provide information to those struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide as well as those dealing with the suicide of a loved one.
Here 4 Hope coordinator Holly Zweizig said the coalition is the umbrella organization for the Union County Suicide Prevention Task Force, the Sudden LOSS (Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors) Team, and the Survivors of Suicide and Sudden Loss Support Group.
While the task force aims to stop people from committing suicide, the Sudden LOSS Team reaches out to those left behind. Zweizig said family members and loved ones who have experienced a suicide are at greater risk of committing suicide themselves.
Jessica Schulze, chief executive and director of the Hope Center in Marysville, is on the Sudden LOSS Team.
"The whole reason it exists is that 'postvention' is prevention for the next generation," she said. "You're not helping people make decisions. You're just kind of waiting and being a support while the chaos of an initial trauma processes."
"It's not to talk about the case. It's not to ask questions. It's to listen and provide support. If they have questions they want to ask of a police officer or coroner or anyone else at the time, we can be that conduit for them," Zweizig said.
The support group, meanwhile, provides a forum for anyone affected by suicide.
"It meets monthly at the hospital and is for those who have been personally affected, or are survivors of a suicide of an immediate family member or loved one," Zweizig said. "It's specific to suicide and allows them to talk about feelings that are raw and different from other groups."
The website helps Here 4 Hope link the three resource groups together. It offers information about the warning signs of suicide; myths and facts; resources for dealing with grief; lists of local mental-health professionals and support groups; and online and print resources about coping with suicide.
Zweizig compares the topic of suicide to that of cancer at one time.
"Families would talk quietly about cancer, where now it's an open conversation," she said.
Suicide is still a largely taboo subject. "We are in a community that doesn't necessarily talk regularly about that, although we respond to it regularly. We're trying to bridge that to provide information, as well as support to those who are dealing with it, to help prevent further loss," Zweizig said.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide remains the 10th-leading cause of death for all Americans and the third-leading cause of death among individuals 15-24 years old. In the past 10 years, there have been nearly 60 suicides in Union County.
In a recent span of April 16 to June 10, the Marysville Police Department received nine calls involving threats of suicide or self-harm.
Schulze said every threat must be taken seriously, "which is difficult, especially for parents raising teenagers. Teenagers are impulsive and overreacting little beings, and they say things to hurt sometimes -- and they over-process emotionally. So I think a lot of times there's a little bit of 'cry wolf' when you have a teenager dealing with depression," Schulze said.
"In managing your household and life, it's easy to stop reacting or not take things seriously. And parents don't mean to do that, but you don't want to find out the hard way. We'd rather over-respond a thousand times than miss one."
Zweizig said if someone suspects a loved one may be at risk of committing suicide, face the issue head-on.
"Don't be afraid to ask the question specifically and use the word 'suicide.' Don't ask, 'Are you planning to hurt yourself or harm yourself?' because that means something very different than suicide," Zweizig said. "Ask specifically if they have a plan or if they have a lethal means."
She said the questioner should then reassure the loved one, provide support and listen without judgment; don't overreact.
"It's really an opportunity for that person to express the level of pain they are in at that time," Zweizig said.
It's important for people to know they can get help.
"Don't try to manage it on your own. Get the help. Get the therapy. Get treatment. Engage all the resources. That's what the website is about," Schulze said. "To make sure every resource is available to help people manage their own health."