August 01, 2012 - Whether you're someone who's contemplating suicide or someone who's lost a family member or friend to suicide, the communities of Oxford and Lake Orion want you to know they care and they're here to help.
Taylor Elrod (front), a 2011 graduate of Oxford High School, was among the crowd at the suicide prevention event held Saturday at Seymour Lake Twp. Park. For more photos, please see Page 28.
Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
That much was evident as 110 folks, young and old, gathered Saturday morning at Seymour Lake Township Park to participate in the First Annual Oxford/Lake Orion Suicide Prevention 5K Run/Walk, organized by Jessica Pyke, a 2009 graduate of Oxford High School.
"It went way over my expectations," she said. "I can't wait for next year to do it again."
The event raised just over $1,000 for Common Ground, an Oakland County-based nonprofit agency dedicated to helping youths, adults and families in crisis. Common Ground serves more than 40,000 individuals every year through its various programs.
"It shows everyone really is willing to come together and help others," Pyke said. "They all know we need to do something about this."
Speaking at the event was Dave Opalewski, president of the Saginaw-based Grief Recovery, Inc. and the author of numerous books and articles on suicide prevention and related topics.
An instructor at Central Michigan University, he spent 33 years in K-12 education during which he experienced the deaths of 28 students and staff members.
"I want to thank you for being here because it's one thing to say that you care and it's another thing to show that you care," Opalewski told the crowd. "And you're showing that you care by being here today."
"One of the greatest myths in suicide prevention is that national programs work," he noted. "National programs don't work. What works is grassroots, community programs. That's what's going on here today. This speaks so well of your community, all you people being here today."
Opalewski noted that suicide kills somewhere between 140,000 and 150,000 Americans every year.
"In the United States, someone dies by suicide every 16 minutes," he said.
But suicide doesn't just affect the person who dies.
"For every suicide, six people's lives are turned on their ears," Opalewski said. "They'll never be the same. They feel an intense pain. You're here today to make a dent in that pain."
According to Opalewski, suicide is "the second leading cause of death" among young people.
"This is the fastest growing killer of the most precious resource we have in our country and that's our youth," he said.
But it doesn't have to be this way.
"Experts tell us we can prevent 90 percent of these deaths just by promoting awareness," Opalewski said.
People can help those at risk "just by being a friend," letting them know they're not alone and spreading the message that "it's okay to ask for help."
"Depression is not a character flaw," Opalewski stressed. "Depression is a medical condition. We've got to get rid of that stereotype."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.