Every 15 minutes in the United States, someone takes his or her own life.
That means every 15 minutes, a family is left to wonder why.
In order to help loved ones struggling to find answers, Stand Against Suicide (SAS), an Elbridge-based nonprofit that seeks to raise awareness about the risks of mental illness and to encourage those in need to get help, is sending Sympathy Baskets to families who reach out to the organization.
“A friend of mine has a terminally ill parent,” said Tara Dennee, who founded SAS in 2010 in memory of her father, Wayne Olmstead, who died by suicide in 2009. “Her father has cancer. A group sent them a book and a ‘gift basket’ with little things to make them feel comforted. I thought, what a wonderful idea for us!”
SAS sent out its first Sympathy Basket Thursday, Aug. 9, to a family in Missouri that lost its mother to suicide in May. That basket contains a sympathy card, the book “No Time To Say Goodbye: Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One” by Carla Fine with a handwritten message from Dennee in the front cover, handmade beaded “Hope” bracelets made by SAS volunteers, SAS T-shirts and brochures and a few miscellaneous items specific to the family.
“No two baskets will be the same,” Dennee said. “Some will contain mugs and hot cocoa packets or coffee or cookies, whatever the family might like. It all depends on what we get in terms of contact from a survivor/survivor’s friend.”
Dennee said finding families will be done through SAS’s website, standagainstsuicide.com.
“So far, I have been contacted through our email that is listed on our website” she said. “We just started the program recently and although we hope there aren’t many suicides, we do hope that people will contact us when one does happen.”
The baskets, funded by donations to SAS and events like the Take A Stand, Save A Life event held June 2, which raised $7,600 for the organization, are a part of SAS’s larger mission to educate people about suicide and to reach out to those who have been affected by its destructive influence.
“I want people to know that they aren’t alone,” Dennee said. “When I lost my dad, people tried to tell me they knew how I felt, but no matter how hard they tried, they really didn’t know. Being left behind after a suicide is a different kind of loss, and we want people to know that we are there to help, even if it’s only to offer some random comforting items.”
For more information, visit standagainstsuicide.org. Dennee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.