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Suicide Prevention Month hits home for local woman

By Press Times Staff

BROWN COUNTY – More than 40 deaths per year in the county are suicides.

Though that number is negative, the positive side is suicide is 100 percent preventable.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

Prevention starts by talking about it, by erasing the stigma associated with suicide and mental health.

It continues with education for the community on mental health resources available in the county, and reassuring those who suffer with mental health or thoughts of suicide.

“In November of 1994, our son Tim died by suicide,” said Mary Doemel, De Pere. “Our family was devastated as we didn’t know what to do or where to turn. It was so difficult to even comprehend what had happened. The grief was overwhelming and so different than any other grief we had experienced before.”

Doemel said it was especially difficult, because Tim died in Minnesota, and funeral arrangements had to be made without a body.

“After the funeral, everyone goes back to their own life as they know it, but our life would never be the same again,” she said. “We were in for the longest emotional roller coaster ride of our life. The pain, grief, overwhelming sadness, fear, guilt and the highs and lows that just don’t stop. Your brain is telling you that he is dead, but your heart is saying ‘No, no I want him back, I want to see him, I want to hold him one more time.’ Your stomach is in knots. You don’t know where to go with the pain and agony.”

Doemel said in January 1995 her family attended the peer-support group Survivors of Suicide (SOS), and has attended ever since.

“Losing someone to suicide is so different from any other death, and finding the right support group is so important and necessary,” she said. “The SOS group became our family. They knew what we were feeling as they too talked in our shoes. They took our hand and led us on a journey through the grief. I now facilitate the SOS group and have been doing it for 15 years.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, national suicide deaths increased by more than 30 percent since 1999.

In 2006, the Brown County Coalition for Suicide Prevention formed to lead the fight against suicide through education, awareness, outreach and support.

The coalition contains volunteers from local schools, health care organizations, behavioral health providers, government agencies, law enforcement, veteran-focused groups, local business advocates and survivors.

In 2008, suicide was rising, so the coalition launched QPR: Question, Persuade and Refer, for suicide prevention.

From there, trained community members went out into the community to train others in suicide prevention.

On Sept. 8, the LOSS Team was launched. The team is a postvention program with a suicide survivor and clinician, trained and deployed to the scene of local suicides to provide immediate support and resources to those who lost a loved one.

The coalition also sponsors the Be The Light Walk held annually in downtown Green Bay, which has drawn more than 12,000 participants in its 11 years.

This year the walk takes place virtually Sept. 12. Teams can sign up online at bethelightwalk.com.

“It’s an event for healing, connection and knowing you are not alone,” Doemel said. “The battle against suicide is at a critical stage, the need never greater. The need cannot wait. During the COVID-19 pandemic, isolation, fear and anxiety, have spiked as have job loss, financial concerns and alcohol use. These are all contributing factors to suicide. Your help is needed now.”

Persons thinking about suicide are urged to call 1-800-SUICIDE.

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