Community needs to follow up on suicide discussion

On Thursday, March 22, I held my first suicide prevention and awareness event at NewAldaya Lifescapes in order to educate, give prevention and ultimately let the community be aware of the hard truth that is mental health and suicide.

Alive and Running and I partnered to give resources, bring up the taboo discussion and illustrate that people are out there to listen.

This subject has touched the community, especially the high school, a few too many times and I felt it was finally time to do something about it.

Aug. 28 I had the idea of partnering with Alive and Running Iowa for a suicide prevention and awareness assembly and brought the idea to the principal and counselors.

After months of meetings, emails and ideas being thrown around, I felt that it wasn’t progressing as quickly and in the direction it needed to be, and I was told I could not be involved in further planning stages.

Therefore I took it upon myself to plan something within and for the community.

Katy Delagardelle, a licensed independent social worker who obtained her masters degree in 2013 from the University of Northern Iowa, has been practicing ever since in the Cedar Valley, and she was the first speaker.

“I agreed to speak because mental health care is something I’m passionate about. I feel that just as we all regularly attend to our physical health, we should also treat our hearts and souls with the same type of regular care,” Delagardelle said.

She sees patients as young as four years old and also meets with adults, using both talk and play techniques to treat such issues as depression, anxiety, difficult life changes and much more.

“I feel that more teens and young adults are afflicted with mental health issues, and I think a lot of it has to do with the ever-increasing emergence and reliance on technology,” she said.

Our second speaker of the night was Anna Hicks. She spoke about her experience when watching her brother suffer from bullying, depression and ultimately a suicide attempt three years ago.

Her brother has now recovered and is living a happy and healthy life, though, of course, daily struggles occur, but Hicks said that he and his family are now able to talk and see things through.

“I thought the event was incredible. It was so amazing to see people from the area all come together to listen and learn. It was awesome,” Hicks said.

She said she had agreed to speak because she wanted people to know that they do matter and they are valued.

“Life is so crazy, and sometimes we forget our own worth while being caught up in the paths life takes us,” she said.

Hicks has now used her experience of watching and helping her brother and family to help others in a very admirable way.

She has written letters and sent messages randomly to people she knows on and off of social media to allow them to know how much she loves and appreciates them.

“I wanted people to know that things do get better whether they are struggling or not, and that there is light in the darkness,” she said.

Hicks said that she believes there is a huge issue of mental health problems and suicide within not only our own community but all over.

“Suicide and mental health is a long overdue discussion that is finally getting the attention it needs,” she said.

She said that teens today do not always have it as easy as everybody believes.

She said she thinks that social media plays a huge role in mental health, whether it comes to comparison or hiding behind the screen to attack other people.

Lastly, Alive and Running Iowa co-founder Troy Belmer spoke on his experience through his loss, organization and the knowledge he has soaked in over the years of listening and talking.

“I wanted to share insight. With Alive & Running Iowa, I have met people from all over, and I’ve gained a ton of knowledge. I wanted to share it,” he said.

Belmer said when the idea was first brought up, he absolutely loved it because the only thing we both wanted to do and have ever wanted was to help others.

“For one, it’s all about helping others. For two, I was blown away that a 17-year-old student was wanting to do this. It took me until I was 35 to do something.”

Hashtags flutter the realm of social media every day, so, of course, we had to come up with something that everyone can relate to and remember.

At the start of promoting my event and spreading the word on all my platforms within my cell phone, one day I attached #LetsStartTalking to a post, and it took off.

I felt that these three simple words paint the picture of what every community, family, school, etc., needs to acknowledge. We need to start talking to each other, coming to the realization that no one is perfect, and that these issues occur all over the globe.

Belmer said he believes that this hashtag means going back to the roots.

“I’m 42 years old, so I can say I grew up in a different era. We talked. We didn’t have emails, computers, cell phones, etc. We had to talk. So #letsstarttalking is just that. Let’s get things out and discuss them,” Belmer said.

Not only will people see #LetsStartTalking all over Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but also on T-shirts thrown around the community.

I raised $400 to be donated to Alive and Running Iowa so far by selling yellow and black T-shirts, which are the national suicide prevention colors that say, “Students Making an Impact” before and after the event.

My family and I will also be taking orders for the yellow shirts as well as white shirts that say, “#LetsStartTalking” with suicide prevention underneath, through April 3.

All prices, pictures and sizes are available on Facebook by searching for the Let’s Start Talking page. This page is also designated to talk about up and coming community events pertaining to mental health and suicide.

I have dealt with mental health and suicide many times, whether it was volunteering with my family and friends, attending the Alive and Running event with my team and going through losses when growing up.

I’m a very passionate young woman looking to make a change in not just the Cedar Valley but also to make a dent in the world some day.

We all have to start somewhere, and this is just my beginning. Let’s really start talking.

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