Event brings attention to heartbreak of suicide
Brandishing, tattoos, smiles and makeup, young people gather in clusters in the night — talking, smoking and glancing at mobile phones.
Jerry Tennity thrusts a hand high into the cigarette smoke swirling in the florescent light.
The shout of one spread, then all join in. A forest of arms sprout from the crowd — reaching to the sky.
“To Zsigo!” the chant continues as the group moves inside the American Legion building in Cortez, where they bounce and sway to the rhymes of Salt Lake City hip hop artist Burnell Washburn on stage.
The all-ages show is a benefit for suicide awareness and the memorial of Michael Zsigo, who took his own life last year at the age of 21. Since then, Zsigo’s friends and family have rallied to create a memorial at the skate park for the former Montezuma-Cortez High School student and skateboarder.
There were nine suicides in Montezuma County in 2010, according to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. No data has yet been published for 2011, but at least three county deaths are believed to have been suicides so far in 2012.
The worst year on record for the county was 2001, with 11 confirmed suicides.
Sonny Bossenmaier, bereavement coordinator at Hospice of Montezuma, said Dolores County recently surpassed Montezuma County as the highest suicide rate per population in the state.
“Suicide is not a tidy solution,” she said. “It seems like a good way out maybe, except for you don’t realize those people you leave behind. Those people are often times six to eight individuals per suicide that are left with loss, the lack of understanding of what it is to be done. Why did it happen? It is a question that remains with them indefinitely, there is no solution, there is no peace.”
A subject that is seldom discussed openly due to the stigma surrounding it, Bossenmaier said that for every suicide, there are an average of 20 failed attempts that could leave people suffering, disfigured, dismembered, paralyzed or brain damaged.
“They do try to talk, they do try to reach out,” she said. “But sometimes they don’t know how. They don’t know how to come up with the words to tell you what pain they’re in ... If someone you know appears to be suffering in some way, don’t be afraid to ask them if they are having some suicidal thoughts, because you may save a life.”
Lillian Ramey, a speaker from Second Wind Fund, asks an audience of more than 50 Friday night how many of them have had their lives touched by the suicide of someone they know. Almost all raise their hands.
Ramey discusses the warning signs of a potentially suicidal individual, which include giving away valuable possessions, being reclusive, depression, increased drug/alcohol use, being bullied and experiencing loss as well as openly discussing or hinting at suicidal thoughts.
“The first thing you want to do is listen,” she said. “Not just think they are looking for attention. If they are really looking for attention, this is really worth giving them some attention. They need to know that someone hears them and is able to get them some help.”
The next step, Ramey said, is to tell someone. This could be a friend, parent, counselor, therapist or organization such as Hospice of Montezuma. It’s particularly hard for teens when a friend talks of suicidal thoughts, then makes them promise not to tell.
“It’s better to have that friend angry at you than to have them dead. Please tell someone, get them some help,” she said.
The Second Wind fund was founded to provide free therapy to youth at risk of suicide.
“Make sure that you’re not afraid to talk about suicide,” she said. “We spend a lot of time hiding the issue in our community and in our world. It’s not something that we have to hide.”
The show continued late into the night and also featured the musical talents of Dreams 2 Reality, Coherent, Poetic, Bliss, Miranda Eubanks and Illusions k.i.r.p. and numerous other voices who want those who are thinking about making a bold attempt at death to instead make a bold attempt at life.
More information about the Second Wind Fund can be found at 303-988-5870 or www.thesecondwindfund.org.
Hospice of Montezuma hosts a suicide discussion group 6:15 p.m. the last Thursday of every month at 1345 South Broadway. The organization can be reached at 565-4400, or www.hospiceofmontezuma.org.
The state hosts a 24/7 lifeline phone service at 1-800-273-TALK.
Reach Reid Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org