A group of parents in Clinton County told Local 4 News they Speak Out Against Suicide, so other families don’t have to experience the same trauma.
It’s part of their mission to provide education about suicide awareness and prevention to teens to help them know what to look out for, where to find help and to know it’s okay to reach out.
Speak Out Against Suicide is a coalition of parents impacted by suicide, either losing a child that took his or her own life or their kid lost a friend to suicide.
They told Local 4 News it’s difficult every time there is word in their community of another life lost to suicide, making they feel like going back to square one of what else they need to be doing.
The group said they experienced that last week when a young woman who grew up in the community took her own life.
But for Speak Out, they said that continues to push them when it comes to talking about this issue.
A primary focus of the outreach is to teens.
As Local 4 News this week, Iowa teens reported a 50 percent increase is planning to take their own life in the Youth Survey.
That continual increase is why the group said they expanded their efforts in the fall of 2018 when it comes to the age group.
They brought in a trained educator who provides free sessions at schools in four counties around the area to widen the conversation, make students more comfortable and to know where to find resources for themselves or friends.
“The kids are really paying attention,” said a founder of Speak Out Against Suicide Nikki Carber. “They’re looking at the warning signs. They’re knowing what to do. They’re knowing who to talk to, what to say. Not afraid to tell their friends to talk with their parents.”
It’s that type of progress that’s been at the hear of Speak Out.
Carber said, “We’re just a small group of seven people making some pretty big strides.”
In 2012, after her daughter lost an eighth-grade classmate, Nikki Carber sought to address growing but silent concern.
Carber said, “I didn’t want to have to tell my story as far as losing an immediate family member and prevention was key.”
That’s how Speak Out Against Suicide was born, involving parents who know the anguish.
Speak Out Against Suicide organizer Esther Vogel said, “It was just a big shock. I had some many parents reaching out to me. What do I do? Obviously, I didn’t know what to do. You know, I didn’t see it coming.”
Esther Vogel’s heartache was about a decade before, when she lost her 16-year-old son Jimmy.
Vogel said, “He was a huge athlete in our community, really well known.”
While it’s an emotional journey when she speaks of her son, it’s one that also helps others see what it means to face this loss.
Vogel said, “It’s hard for me because I don’t want to see any family go through it cause obviously he’s been gone 18 years, but it still seems like yesterday.”
For her, one of the most important reasons for sharing Jimmy’s story, especially to teens, is to keep the topic of suicide from being suffered in silence.
Vogel said, “If it continued in that direction [of not being discussed] I could see a lot more suicides.”
And by speaking out with others in this group, they said it’s making headway as their stories carry messages of help and hope.
Carber said, “The stigma is very, very hard to break through but I think we’re getting there.”
It’s a change Vogel said is essential to see from about two decades ago.
“It was hard, no one wanted to talk about it,” said Vogel. “They didn’t want to bring up his name. We felt alone, and so that’s why I felt it was huge for us to get out and talk about this so people wouldn’t have to feel like that.”
But they know there’s still a long way to go before they see no one else lose their life to suicide.
Vogel said, “Feel open and freely talk about things or reach out for help like any other disease.”
Speak Out told Local 4 some of the next steps including working to build up treatment resources in the area for more immediate access to help.
They are holding their annual Awareness Gala in April.
They told Local 4 News even though they sold out all 500 seats in about three hours, this year’s event focuses specifically on teens and raising money for expanding education.