Sunday, July 21, 2019 Elyria 87°

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Weekend events focus on suicide awareness, prevention


ELYRIA — Following the suicides of two young people in the county, Keandra Booker said she couldn’t sit idly by any longer.

So, she organized three events for this weekend — two educating residents on mental health issues, talking points and resources, plus a memory walk to show support for those struggling and commemorate those who have died by suicide in the area.

“It was just a thought back in May that I had, and it would have stayed a thought until these two individuals that took their lives kind of sparked the flames under me,” she said.

Saturday’s events are split, with a panel discussion 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Second Baptist Church, and a Memory Walk 6 to 8 p.m. that evening. The walk will go from Ely Square to Elyria High School, and then back to the square, starting at 6:30 p.m. Attendees will be able to select colored beads to wear to signify why they are walking, including if they have lost someone to suicide, if they have personally struggled, or if they are there simply to support suicide prevention.

The panel discussion will include an hour presentation by Dorena Gilchrist of the Nord Center on stigmas surrounding mental health. After that, there will be a panel discussion, where attendees can ask questions of local specialists Elizabeth Wolanski, child and adolescent services director for the Lorain County Board of Mental Health; Jane Lewins, Ohio Chapter president for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention; and Latoya Caver, of CJ Hendry and Associates and a parent who lost her child to suicide.

“This is a carefree opportunity, no-judgment zone to get questions answered,” Booker said.

Sunday’s event is limited to 35 registrants, with the Lorain County Board of Mental Health presenting Questions Persuade Refer (QPR) method training, meant to give attendees the skills to communicate with and recognize someone struggling with their mental health or thoughts of suicide. The 90-minute session, taught by Clare Rosser, the board’s director of communications and community relations, is free, and will be held at Second Baptist Church. Registration is available through the board’s Facebook page.

While Booker organized the events in part because of incidents that happened earlier this summer, she said she also had struggled with suicidal thoughts for about five years. While she speaks from experience, she said the community needs suicide prevention education for everyone — regardless of race, socioeconomic class, age or other factors.

“I would say come with an open mind. don’t be hesitant, don’t be scared to ask any questions. … We do a disservice to ourselves when we don’t educate ourselves, so even if you feel that you don’t have a direct (relationship) to this topic, it’s better to be prepared to learn what to look for.”

Booker also said she plans on hosting more events like this, to keep the conversation going as one weekend can’t “save the community.”

For more information, email Booker at

Contact Carissa Woytach at (440) 329-7245 or

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