Jordan Tara Dennee was in the psych unit at Upstate University Hospital when she had an epiphany.
It doesn’t have to be like this.
Dennee checked herself into the hospital in the spring of 2011 after fighting depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder in the wake of her father’s 2008 suicide. For three years, rather than seek help for her own emotional problems, she let them spiral out of control until she felt like she might take her own life. Not wanting her own daughter to suffer like she did, she spent 11 days in intensive, inpatient treatment.
During that time, Dennee understood that asking for help meant the difference between life and death.
“Over the 11 days, I saw that there was hope for every single one of us that were in there. I saw dramatic improvement each day,” she said. “It was at that point that I decided that people need to know there is help out there. The stigma needs to end and people need to be aware that mental disorder is no different than cancer or heart disease. It can be treated. People shouldn’t be ashamed to get help.”
Over the course of the next year, Dennee, of Elbridge, dedicated herself to raising awareness about suicide and mental illness. She started Stand Against Suicide (SAS), a nonprofit organization aimed at accomplishing that mission through education and participating in events where the group can promote the cause. Though SAS originally funneled all of its proceeds to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, it recently became a 501(c)3 corporation in its own right. The nonprofit now operates on its own, and 100 percent of the profits go back into the organization for outreach and educational programs.
In order to accomplish SAS’s mission, according to SAS Vice President Kelly Blackburn, a Liverpool native, it’s imperative to first erase the shame associated with suicide.