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Walk aims to boost suicide awareness, prevention

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Shelly Birkelo
Friday, September 7, 2012

— Jessie Benash is a survivor of suicide.

"My uncle killed himself," she said.

"It's devastating, and I know personally what it did to his family," Benash said.

When people die of cancer, there is an outpouring of support, Benash said.

"But with suicide, there's so much shame and guilt," she said.

Benash of Milton is serving as co-chairwoman of Youth Emotional Stability in Rock County's inaugural Suicide Awareness and Prevention Walk on Saturday, Sept. 22, at the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds.

The coalition's goal is to create awareness and prevention during the walk, she said.

"I don't know if people realize how many suicides there are in Rock County," Benash said.

The number has more than doubled in five years, according to the Rock County Coroner's Office.

The 15 suicides reported in 2007 increased to 38 in 2011.

As of Sept. 4 this year, the county has had 16 suicides, said Lou Smit, chief deputy coroner.

Suicides also are on the rise nationally.

Every 14.2 minutes, someone in the United States dies by suicide, and nearly 1 million people make a suicide attempt every year, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Benash said she doesn't think survivors of suicide know there are places to go for help.

"That's one of the reasons why we're working to establish a support group for youth and adults," she said.

A questionnaire will be distributed during the walk to gauge interest in establishing such groups, Benash said.

YES received a $1,250 grant from Mental Health of America of Wisconsin to organize the walk that will feature the slogan: "Tell someone. Tell anyone." If a person is having suicidal thoughts, he or she should tell someone how they are feeling, Benash said.

"We want people to know there are options and resources available," she said.

Too often, youth who are friends of someone suicidal fear their friend will be mad for telling, Benash said.

"But it's better for the person to be mad than to lose a friend to suicide," she said.

Two local high school students will be among speakers sharing suicide experiences, Benash said.

One was in the process of committing suicide when he called to say goodbye to a friend. The friend told her mom, and they called police. Officers found him and saved his life, she said.

"So because he told someone and because she told someone, he's here today," Benash said.

Benash said suicide touches everyone from professional football players to people in prestigious jobs.

"It's not just people with mental health issues committing suicide," she said.

In addition to resource booths, speakers, face painting and a silent auction, there will be police and fire units and counselors, Benash said.

"Even if there's only one person that doesn't commit suicide because of this walk, then it'll be worth it," she said."

If you go

Who: Youth Emotional Stability! in Rock County

What: Inaugural Suicide Awareness and Prevention Walk

When: 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22.

Where: Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds, 1301 Craig Ave., Janesville.

Registration fee: $10 each or $40 for five. Send registration fee by Friday, Sept. 14, to Jessie Benash, P.O. Box 8098, Janesville, WI 53547. Make checks payable to RWCFS, Inc. Additional registration forms can be printed at Registration also will be taken onsite the day of the event.

Last updated: 4:41 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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