May 1, 2003

Ithaca to Hold Suicide Survivors Day

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Ithaca will hold its eighth annual Suicide Survivors Day this Saturday, with suicide survivors from all over Tompkins County gathering to share their experiences. The event is part of this year’s National Suicide Prevention Week (April 28-May 4), during which the nation’s 4.5 million suicide survivors commemorate the loss of their loved ones.

“A suicide survivor is defined as one who has survived the suicide of a friend, or family member … the ones who were left behind,” said Ellen Schmidt, an employee of the Tompkins County Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service (SPCS).

By setting aside a day for suicide survivors, Tompkins County hopes to provide means by which suicide survivors can learn, connect with others and create ways to become more involved after a loss.

The first event of the day will feature Dempsey Rice, an award-winning filmmaker, educator, advocate and suicide survivor. Rice will be discussing the affect of her mother’s suicide on her life.

“It was the single most defining event in my life. It’s like there’s before, and there’s after and everything is different after,” Rice said.

Rice’s film, Daughter of Suicide, won awards from the National Mental Health Association and the National Council on Family Relations. The film, which has been called “deeply moving” and “impressionistic” by representatives of the Frameline film distribution group, has been shown in various festivals nationally and internationally.

Following Rice’s discussion, suicide survivors are encouraged to join other members of the community for lunch at the SPCS training and resource center.

According to Schmidt, “the event is open to the greater Ithaca community, and Cornell students … especially for Cornell students who have lost a loved one to suicide. It gives them an opportunity to connect with other students in the same situation.”

Suicide Survivors Day and National Suicide Prevention Week were initiated as a response to soaring statistics on suicide deaths. According to the World Health Organization, 16 out of every 100,000 individuals will commit suicide; this amounts to one suicide death every 40 seconds. In the last 45 years, suicide rates have increased 60 percent worldwide.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that suicide is one of the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-24 years, and that there are 1.7 times as many suicides as homicides.

Suicide is also more likely to occur during periods of socioeconomic or family crisis than during normal circumstances.

The SPCS provides a support group for suicide survivors that meets twice monthly, and also provides 24-hour crisis counseling by phone at 607-272-1616.

Archived article by Teah Colson