WELLINGTON — A church leader in Wellington reached out to the Lorain County Mental Health Board with hopes of helping to heal a community impacted by suicide.
When 15-year-old Tyson McKinley took his own life Sept. 20, Stephenie Snodgrass, a congregant at First United Methodist Church, said she was one of the parents helping to make ribbons for kids to wear in school honoring Tyson.
“I wanted to get in front of this and stop being the one that makes the ribbons and help out more,” Snodgrass said. “We need to help these kids and the adults because the adults have also affected our church population.”
Snodgrass said last month an adult congregant took his own life, and she knows many in the community have been touched in some way by suicide, including her.
“My brother committed suicide, so I know how all these people feel,” Snodgrass said. “There are a whole lot of warning signs. If I had known when I was 21, my brother might still be here. It can help families to not have that empty stocking at Christmas.”
The mental health board responded by organizing a forum for Wellington that will be 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 14, at Lorain County Community College Wellington Center, 151 Commerce Drive, for adults interested in learning the basics about mental health and suicide. Those at the forum also will help choose future community-based training options designed to create an informed community culture regarding mental health.
At the event, a trainer from the Lorain County Board of Mental Health will share components of the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation Gatekeeper training that includes suicide-prevention techniques for youths or adults.
People attending will gain a basic education about depression and identifying risks for suicide along with an understanding of how to confidently assist a friend or loved one struggling with mental health.
Kathleen Kern, executive director of the county Board of Mental Health, said the number of suicides has increased nationwide.
“Lorain County, like the rest of the state and country, is recognizing that times are changing and if we don’t do things differently, things are going to continue to get worse,” Kern said.
When it happens with children, Kern said the community really comes together and gets active, but the truth is middle-aged men are more likely to commit suicide than kids.
A lot of times, families don’t realize that things like being irritable and grouchy or not being interested in daily activities are all signs of depression for men who are the least likely to get help but the most likely to need it.
The board — which supports services like Applewood Centers, Bellefaire, Firelands Counseling, Ohio Guidestone, Pathways Counseling and The Nord Center — is only useful to people if residents know how and where to get help.
That’s why community members like Snodgrass who request the training are so important.
“If you don’t have people in the community that can recognize when their friend is in trouble, they’re not getting to see those clinicians, and you’re not addressing the problem,” Kern said. The community outreach is about trying to get people to recognize that it’s OK to talk about depression and it’s OK to talk about feeling sad, or whatever it is that your symptoms are, we need to create an environment where people are talking about that.”
Through the mental health board, there’s a 24-hour crisis hotline at (800) 888-6161; a non-emergency number for someone to call to be directed to services at (440) 240-7025; and a new option to text 4hope to 741741 to chat over text messages with a crisis counselor.
Using these services, the mental health board believes the Wellington community can find a way to heal.
“Our goal is to give people tools, but really we’re useless if you don’t have folks in the community who have the desire to create community healing,” Kern said. “It’s only when people join in arms and say, we’re grieving together … that’s when the healing happens.”