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Regional Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 4, 2007


Hope Vigil planned for October 14

By Tyler Schuling

ALBANY — The Hope Vigil is an annual event to honor the lives of those who have killed themselves and to help survivors through their grief.

The vigil’s theme is "Remembrance: A Gift of Hope," said Jill Ordoñez, the program director of the Samaritans Suicide Prevention Center.

Annually in the United States, about 32,000 people kill themselves, making it the 11th leading cause of death, said Ordoñez. Though women attempt suicide three time more often than men, they generally use less lethal means; men complete suicide four times as often, she said.

According to the most recent statistics from the New York State Department of Health, from 2004, nearly 1,200 people — 974 men and 222 women — killed themselves.

At the vigil, suicide survivors — the family members and friends of those who have killed themselves — will participate in an audio-visual presentation, a speech by a spiritual leader, an address by a bereaved parent, a gift-of-remembrance ceremony, and a presentation of names.

"Hopefully, it will be an unforgettable event," said Ordoñez.

In its seventh year, the vigil used to be held on the steps of the Capitol building in Albany. Leaders of the vigil did not hold the event last year because they were restructuring, said Ordoñez.

This year, the Hope Vigil will be held at the Desmond Hotel and Conference Center from 2 to 5 p.m. on Oct. 14.

In the Capital Region, 91 people a year kill themselves, based on the most recent statistics from 2000 to 2003 from the health department. For every suicide, Ordonez said, six survivors are left behind.

"One to two people kill themselves every week, so each week we have new survivors," she said.

Why did this happen"

Ordoñez outlined the grieving process following suicide.

Suicide deaths are similar to any sudden deaths, but those left behind ask themselves many questions. They ask the what-ifs, the would-haves, and the should-haves, Ordoñez said.

"Why did this happen"" they ask. Suicide survivors may react in many ways. Some blame themselves or feel anger toward the deceased person. Some feel rejection, as though they weren’t good enough.

The death "disrupts our assumptive view of the world"; that is, our assumption that those around us aren’t going to die, Ordoñez said. Following a death, we try to make sense of it.

Ordoñez said it is important for survivors to get support. Support groups, such as religious organizations, the community, friends, and family, kick in right away following a suicide death. Talking with other survivors is extremely helpful for those who have also lost someone to suicide. Support groups make survivors feel more connected — that they’re not the only one this has happened to, she said. It is also important for survivors to get help from outside their own support system — from a therapist or a social worker, said Ordoñez.

Survivors are more at risk to commit suicide themselves, making a support system a real need, she said.

Signs

The most obvious signs that someone is considering suicide are when he or she writes or talks about wanting to die or killing themselves, Ordoñez said.

The signs often go unnoticed or are not acknowledged and some think the person talking about death is "just looking for attention," she said.

A person talking about suicide should be taken seriously, and they should be taken to a professional for further evaluation, she said.

Other warning signs include someone seeking access to a method to carry out their plan; such as asking about pills or weapons.

Expressing hopelessness, rage, or anger, undergoing dramatic mood changes, and increasing drug or alcohol use, which would make it easier to carry out a suicide, also signify someone is considering suicide.

Suicides are "very tragic" and "difficult to overcome," said Ordoñez.

"We wanted to provide a special place for the survivors to come to," Ordoñez said of the Hope Vigil. At the event, survivors are able to honor and remember those they loved, she said, and to say that they lived, and they were a person, and they loved them.

****

The Hope Vigil will take place on Sunday, Oct. 14, from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Desmond Hotel and Conference Center in Albany. Many organizations are collaborating for the program — The Samaritan Suicide Prevention Center, a program of the Family and Children’s Service of the Capital Region, Families Together in New York State, and the New York State Office of Mental Health.

The event is free, and walk-ins are welcome. The Samaritans Suicide Prevention Center has a crisis helpline — 689-4673 (HOPE). To receive a formal invitation to the vigil, contact Jill Ordoñez, the Samaritans Suicide Prevention Center program director, by e-mail at sams@fcscapitalregion.org or by phone at 462-6531, ext. 126.


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