Groups sponsor suicide prevention event [UPDATED]Published 10:19am Thursday, October 4, 2012 Updated 12:20pm Thursday, October 4, 2012
For The Journal
Maria Willits, whose son died by suicide, will tell her personal story as the keynote speaker at the Depression and Suicide Prevention and Information Awareness event from 6-9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10, in Fergus Falls.
Organizers say the program, which is open to the public and free of charge, is designed to educate the public about suicide and to encourage awareness of the mental health and suicide prevention resources available in the community.
Sponsors include Federated Church, Lake Region Healthcare, the Fergus Falls campus of Minnesota State Community and Technical College, the Children’s Mental Health Local Advisory Council of Otter Tail County, and the Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ from the Ashley Endowment.
Organizers also include parish nurses affiliated with Fergus Falls churches and representatives of Lakeland Mental Health Center, Fergus Falls Public Schools and Otter Tail County Human Services. The event will be in Legacy Hall on the M State campus at 1414 College Way in Fergus Falls.
From 6 to 7 p.m., more than 20 local mental health and health care professionals will have information available at resource tables to have one-on-one conversations with attendees
Keynote speaker Maria Willits will give her presentation entitled “Shatter the Silence” from 7 to 8 p.m. Maria is an LPN and is the Chair and founder of Shatter the Silence, a non-profit organization that focuses on preventing youth suicide by educating and raising awareness about mental illness and suicide.
Aside from her professional training and experience, Maria and her family have gained the most insight from their personal experience with mental illness and suicide. Maria’s oldest son died by suicide in 2009, and her youngest son was diagnosed with early onset Bipolar Disorder when he was 10 years old.
Following Willits’s presentation, there will be small group sessions beginning at 8 p.m. for families in grief, youth, church leaders and interested community members.
Willits will lead one of these sessions for family members and significant people in the lives of those who have died by suicide.
Local church groups are being encouraged to bring their confirmation and youth group participants in grades 8 and above.
According to statistics from Stephen Ministries, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States but the third leading cause of death among young people ages 15-24.