Local groups work to fight suicide, raise awareness
September is suicide prevention month, but several Rockford nonprofits work to prevent it all year round.
ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 47,000 taking their own life in 2019.
“I know he was trying to protect me from that pain,” said Laura Kane. Her son Zachary, 14, took his own life three years ago.
“He was the happiest kid. There were no signs. He wasn’t diagnosed with depression or anxiety,” said Kane. “He seemed like a normal teenage boy.”
To put the pieces together, Kane researched mental illness. She learned suicide is preventable.
“I decided to step up for the community and do something greater for the youth,” said Kane. “So that no parent has to walk in my shoes.”
She created the nonprofit, Marshmallow’s Hope, in her son’s honor. The organization works with kids and parents to connect them with a support system. Kane said one of the telling signs of a child contemplating suicide is isolation from all family and friends. Another is drastic mood changes from their normal behavior.
“As a society, we’ve given mental illness a stigma that makes people think that they’re crazy, or if they reach out for help they’re not going to be fit or good enough to be empowered in life somehow,” said Kane.
Her recent program pairs a member of the armed forces with a child struggling with their mental health. Kane said the stigma often prevents service members from asking for help when they are in a dark place. The service member is called the “HERO” who is paired with a “ZOW” which stands for Zacharys of the World, in honor of her son. The pair makes a mutually beneficial friendship in their journey to health.
Another group that often struggles with mental health is law enforcement. Brad Lindmark founded the Greg Lindmark Foundation in honor of his brother who committed suicide in 2015. The group works to help law enforcement deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression.
“Sometimes people don’t want to talk about it, suicide. It affected our family, obviously, quite a bit. The police department. Our friends,” said Lindmark. “If you can prevent or talk to somebody else, and be the light for them, make the world a better place.”
Brad Lindmark said the worst thing someone can do is hold everything in.
“You hear a suicide. A police officer took his own life. Fire department. Anyone. Oh, it’s a suicide. The way it affects a family, a department, a whole city and community sometimes,” said Lindmark. “It’s more than just a suicide, and this can all be prevented if we can just talk.”
Suicide Prevention Resources:
Greg Lindmark Foundation: https://www.greglindmarkfoundation.com/
Marshmallow’s Hope: https://www.marshmallowshope.org/
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255
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