Those who have lost loved ones to suicide will gather for a day of healing Saturday.
For the second year, Jamestown is among the participating cities in International Survivors of Suicide Day. The event will be held at the Mental Health Association offices, located in the Gateway Center, 31 Water St.
According to Jann Ball, Compeer director, area residents had to travel to Buffalo to participate in Survivors of Suicide Day prior to last year.
"We're bringing supports to people in our community who had to go elsewhere to receive them," said Ball, who helped bring the event to Jamestown through the local Suicide Awareness Coalition. "We're growing the support for our county residents to stay right within the county. It's amazing what we've been able to achieve."
The coalition started late last year with the support of several local organizations and individuals. The group includes Chautauqua Tapestry, Compeer Chautauqua, Crisis Services, Chautauqua Opportunities, the state Office of Mental Health, Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene, Department of Youth Services for Jamestown, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and WCA Hospital.
Compeer facilitated the 2011 local Survivors of Suicide Day. Last year's participants have now taken charge.
"It has become a grassroots effort," Ball said. "From now on, essentially, it's in their hands. I think that's amazing. The hope of the coalition was to put it in the hands of the community. That's what has happened with this. They've really taken the initiative."
Saturday's event will begin at noon with refreshments. From 1-2:30 p.m., participants will view an American Foundation for Suicide Prevention nationwide broadcast, which will feature a panel of suicide loss survivors and a mental health professional. They will discuss their experiences. A closing ceremony will follow.
"Those who attend will be amongst people who have been through what they've been through. They're all working through a loss," Ball said. "It is a very welcoming, very gentle way to find support, comfort and encouragement. A survivor of suicide is so isolated and so alone. People don't know how to respond. Their peers, they know what they're experiencing, so it's a very meaningful and beautiful afternoon for people."
Across the nation, many people are going through the same experience. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, someone is lost to suicide every 14 minutes in the U.S. Worldwide, 1 million people die by suicide each year.
The Suicide Prevention Coalition is working to make a difference locally. In September, the organization led the Out of the Darkness Community Walk, which raised funds for suicide prevention efforts. The coalition plans to offer suicide awareness and prevention training for area residents and hopes to work with local schools.
"We're trying to get into the school systems to make suicide awareness part of the curriculum," Ball said. "Some of the schools have been very receptive. I think that even as busy as schools are, this is such an important topic that they're willing to listen."
The coalition encourages community members from all walks of life to get involved. Many already have.
"People are coming forward who have experienced suicide loss and are realizing that we have support in our county, which I'm so proud of," Ball said. "This is really touching the hearts of people in this community. It's something that's really needed."
To get involved in the coalition, call Ball at 487-2956.
For more information on Survivors of Suicide Day, contact Stacey at 487-7338 or the Mental Health Association office at 661-9044.