For the next few days Local 4 News is taking time to highlight mental health struggles that many people face.
Losing a loved one to suicide is never easy. But some local survivors are using their experience to raise awareness.
Two local organizations, Speak Out Against Suicide in Camanche, Iowa and Foster’s Voice in East Moline, were both created after the founders dealt with personal loss. They are hoping their stories can save lives.
“Starting a conversation is a lot easier than receiving the phone call,” Speak Out Against Suicide community educator Olivia Regenwether said.
Talking about mental health is not always easy but volunteers with Speak Out Against Suicide said it’s crucial to have conversations.
“It can be a conversation, and it can be explained and talked about without whispers behind it. And closed doors,” Regenwether said.
Regenwether, Linda Kramer and Esther Vogel work with the group in Camanche and have all lost someone to suicide. Vogel lost her son.
“I really don’t want anybody to go through what our family has gone through. It’s very devastating, it changes your life completely. That’s what drives me. I feel him driving me,” she said.
They visit schools, teach the warning signs for suicide and hold support groups for survivors of suicide to help people cope.
“Almost everyone that you meet, there is somebody either in their family, or somebody that they know that this has happened to. And it is devastating. And what we try to do is give them a place to come, give them the education that they need,” Kramer said.
Suicide impacts our community on both sides of the river. In Iowa, 500 people took their lives last year according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
In Illinois, 1500 people died by suicide. It’s these statistics that are pushing advocates to speak out against suicide.
After parents Kevin and Jaime Atwood lost their son Foster to suicide, Kevin knew it was crucial to speak up.
“We lost Foster on July 21st, 2017. He was 19 years old,” he said. “With suicide, there is no time to wait. There is no tomorrow. There is no, we’ll get to it later.”
Their nonprofit Foster’s Voice was created just days after his death. The group teaches teens the warning signs with the hope of saving lives.
“We know the pain, we know the hurt. So we get involved. The key is to get the people who haven’t suffered a traumatic loss,” he said.
To learn more about Foster’s Voice, visit their website here.
To connect with Speak Out Against Suicide, visit their Facebook page here.