WARREN - On a picture-perfect Saturday afternoon, a group of those whose lives were jarred by the suicide of a loved one gathered in Courthouse Square for the third annual Suicide Walk.
The walk is a chance for the families and others who have been touched by suicide to come together to tell their stories and to help raise awareness for those lost and how to work through it. It also is a chance to educate people on how to identify signs before it is too late.
The walk was organized by Cathy Grizinski and Mary Kopiak, both of whom suffered through the loss of a loved one.
Tribune Chronicle / Joshua S. Flesher
Suicide Walk organizer Mary Kopiak wears a T-shirt depicting her daughter, Valerie, who took her own life in 1998.
''May is Mental Health Month and we pick the third weekend to represent the individuals who can't walk for themselves,'' said Grizinski, associate director of the Help Hotline Crisis Center.
The walk is set up along Courthouse Square in downtown Warren with four stations along the way. The four stations represent the four ''tasks'' of grief: telling the story; expressing the emotions; making meaning of loss; and transitioning into a new relationship with the memory.
''We want people to recognize the grief the families carry with them, so people don't feel alone,'' Grizinski said.
Suicide Warning Signs
- Thinking, threatening or talking about wanting to kill oneself
- Looking for ways to kill oneself
- Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
- Feeling hopeless
- Increasing alcohol or drug use
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Feeling rage, uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
- Engaging in risky behaviors / activities
- Feeling anxious or agitated
- Experiencing dramatic mood change
- Sleeping all the time or unable to sleep
- Feeling like there is no reason to live or having no sense of purpose in life
Source: Trumbull County Suicide Prevention Coalition
- LifeLines Access Center, 330-392-1100
- Community Solutions Association, 330-394-9090
- Valley Counseling Services, 330-394-6244 for adults or 330-394-6335 for youth
- Trumbull 211 330-393-1565 or Dial 2-1-1
- Help Hotline Crisis Center 330-747-2696 or 330-424-7767
According to Grizinski, 30 people from Trumbull County, 42 from Mahoning County and 21 from Columbiana County committed suicide in 2009.
About 10 people showed up for the Suicide Walk. Organizers were happy that those who showed up did so, but remain disappointed in the small number. Unlike rallies held for other causes such as cancer, they believe that the ''stigma'' of suicide makes it harder for victims to stand up and talk about.
''I think it's the portrayal of people who commit suicide as weak... but they weren't. They were good people,'' Grizinski said.
Many of those left behind after suicide feel guilty and afraid that they are to blame.
''Guilt is extreme, she said. ''the feeling that we're responsible. We want people not to be fearful, not to feel guilty.''
So she and Kopiak, who lost her daughter Valerie in 1998, set up the walk in order to keep the memories of their loved ones alive and to raise awareness of how to get through such a tragedy and how to recognize the signs.
''In my eyes they deserve as much recognition,'' said Kopiak, who holds a candlelight vigil each November for Valerie and other victims of suicide. ''As long as I'm alive, Valerie will live on.''
Added Grizinski, ''I think we're trying to normalize it, shed some light on depression - to show that there's a lot of hope and help out there.''