SYRACUSE Nearly a year and a half ago, Tara Dennee took on a project that would change her life.
Dennee, of Elbridge, lost her father, Wayne Olmstead, to suicide in July of 2008. In April of 2011, she suffered a breakdown after bottling up her feelings about his death for nearly three years. Last summer, she decided she needed to do something to help people like her father — and herself.
“The stigma needs to end and people need to be aware that mental disorder is no different than cancer or heart disease,” Dennee said. “It can be treated. People shouldn’t be ashamed to get help.”
Dennee 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. Inspired by other walks, on Saturday, Sept. 29, SAS will hold its first community walk at Syracuse’s Inner Harbor.
“I've participated in several community/fundraising walks and they always seem to make you feel better,” Dennee said. “You are surrounded with people that really understand what you've been through. It's just an amazing feeling.”
Among those walks to inspire Dennee was the Out of Darkness walk, hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Though SAS originally funneled all of its proceeds to the AFSP when it was founded, it recently became a 501(c)3 corporation in its own right. Shortly before SAS attained 501(c)3 status, however, Dennee received word from AFSP representatives that they no longer wanted her help. In an e-mail, Dennee was told that “it would be a conflict of interest” for her to work with the AFSP in any capacity.
Mary Jean Coleman, executive director of the local AFSP chapter, insisted that there was no formal relationship between the two organizations to break.