Memories, prevention and hope: First suicide awareness walk held
JANESVILLE On a registration table, 98 packages of tissue were neatly lined up in rows of four, each one a tiny representation of overwhelming sorrow.
Nearby, mounds of colored bead necklaces created fraternities of grief: gold beads represented the loss of a parent, white the loss of a child, red the loss of a spouse and purple the loss of a friend.
And everywhere, people of all ages carried images of the ones they lost. Faces smiled out from T-shirts, circular pins, picture frames and lanyards worn like necklaces.
On Saturday, Youth Emotional Stability (YES) and a variety of community goups held Rock County’s inaugural Suicide Awareness and Prevention Walk at the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds.
Jessie Benash, co-chairwoman of Youth Emotional Stability, said the number of suicides in Rock County has more than doubled between 2008 and 2011, rising from 15 to 38. There have been 15 in 2012.
Organizers hoped the walk would connect survivors, and show people what resources were available for survivors and people suffering from depression.
They especially wanted to reach young people.
“We want the youth to just tell someone,” Benash said. “So often they think that somebody’s going to be mad at them if they say anything.”
Their slogan is “Tell someone. Tell anyone.”
Surviving a brother
Sue Hartman carried a photo of her brother, Ron Temperly. He is smiling at the camera, his whole face bright with cheer.
On April 4, 2008, he jumped from a parking ramp in Dubuque, Iowa. His mother made it to the hospital in time to say goodbye. Sue did not.
Her brother had suffered with mental health problems, but Hartman had no idea that suicide was in his mind.
“Absolutely none,” she said.
Temperly had been living in a hospital-like setting.
“He was comfortable there,” Hartman said.
But then Medicare could no longer pay for his stay.
“We told them to call my parents and they would come and get him,” Hartman said. “They didn’t.”
Instead, the police arrived at her parents’ door with the news.
Her parents got involved in the National Alliance on Mental Illness, an organization better known by its acronym: NAMI.
“Getting involved probably saved my mom’s life,” Hartman said.
Surviving a child
Nancy Weinshrott lost her daughter Tracy “eight years, two months and two days ago.”
Weinshrott and 10 other friends and relations were there. All of them wore purple T-shirts decorated with white daisies and Tracy’s year of birth and death.
“She was always smiling,” Weinshrott said. “She had such a quirky sense of humor.”
In 1998, Tracy developed a brain tumor, but made it through the treatment.
“Then the depression hit,” her mother said.
Tracy was hospitalized more than once and participated in WINGS, Mercy’s behavioral health program, twice.
Things started to fall apart in her professional and personal life.
“Everything started piling up on her,” Weinshrott said. “I think she could have handled each thing separately, but not all together.”
After her death, Weinshrott found a lot of help online.
“People would say, ‘No, you’re not going crazy, you’re grieving,’” Weinshrott said.
There’s still a lot of stigma attached to suicide even now, and it’s difficult to find others to share that particular brand of grief.
“I tell people, ‘the pain never goes away, but it gets bearable,’” Weinshrott said.
Some of Tracy’s nieces and nephews never met her, but they attended Saturday’s event in matching purple T-shirts.
When those nieces and nephews have birthday parties, they take the helium balloons outside when the celebration is over.
“We release them, and tell them that those balloons are going up to Tracy,” Weinshrott said.