COVID-19 heightens suicide concerns
GIRARD — The COVID-19 pandemic has moved many in-person events to virtual. One group, however, still held its annual candlelight vigil honoring loved ones lost to suicide.
On Saturday night, a vigil took place to remember those who died. The Help Network of Northeast Ohio sponsored the event.
Mary Kopiak has helped organize the vigil and started 22 years ago, one year to the day after her daughter, Valerie, committed suicide. Kopiak said the event is much needed, especially during the current climate.
“This year, they say depression has hit hard with all the lockdowns and people should be aware there is somewhere they can celebrate their person,” Kopiak said.
A dozen or so people joined online to remember loved ones by sharing grief and stories about loved ones.
Despite some challenges brought on by the pandemic and a last-minute venue change, the event continued as planned. Close to 1000 people were invited to join
virtually via Facebook Live.
The venue was changed to Shiloh Full Gospel Church on Shannon Road in Girard. Pastor Wade Hartzell Sr. allowed the event to take place in the main sanctuary and even shared a personal story involving his niece, who committed suicide June 15, 2013.
“What Mary didn’t know when she reached out to me (for the venue), in 2013 I lost my niece to suicide,” Hartzell said. “She had found a life of drugs, and she couldn’t find her way out of it.”
“While she was in jail, we would share letters back and forth. There would be moments of encouragement and moments where you could feel like ‘I can pull you out of this’. It ended up that I couldn’t pull her strong enough or yell loud enough to bring her out of that life.”
Hartzell offered words of encouragement to those listening in.
“If you’re contemplating taking your own life, there’s a quote my niece wrote. She said ‘Why am I struggling so much?’ she answered ‘Because I need to trust God. Trust that He will give me the strength I need to do this… It’s not my strength being tested, it’s my faith,” Hartzell read.
PANDEMIC AND MENTAL HEALTH
Since the start of the pandemic in March, the Help Network has seen an increase of calls in a variety of areas, said Cathy Grizinski, Associate Executive Director of the Help Network. She said in the beginning, many of the calls received were for concerns about jobs, paying rent and other utilities.
“As the pandemic has continued, we’ve seen an increase in mental health issues,” Grizinski said. “The pandemic has been crushing to people who may not have that family support system to be there for them.”
Monthly, the network receives 11,000-12,000 calls. Within that number of calls, between 300 and 400 pertain to those thinking about suicide, Grizinski said.
As the pandemic continues, Grizinski said the network is concerned about a rise in suicide cases.
“Suicide across the country is the 10th leading cause of death and between ages 15 and 24, it is the second leading cause,” Grizinski said.
The Centers for Disease Control conducted a survey in June of this year to gauge the effect of the pandemic on those who suffer from mental illnesses. The findings of the survey show United States citizens over the age of 18 have reported “considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19.”
Of those questioned, 10.7 percent reported seriously considering suicide.
There are many resources within Trumbull County that can help people contemplating suicide. The Help Network can be reached at 330-747-2696 or by dialing 2-1-1, the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board at 330-675-8765 and Coleman Access Center at 330-392-1100.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number is 1-800-273-8255.