SYRACUSE Lauren Dodge knows all too well the pain of losing someone to suicide.
“I got involved with [Stand Against Suicide] because of the friends that I lost to suicide growing up,” said Dodge, who lives in Liverpool. “I not only felt the direct heartbreak of losing a friend, but I also saw what their families had to go through after losing their child.”
The worst part was that no one was able to talk about it.
“Experiencing the loss of a friend to suicide when it was a ‘hush-hush subject’ in high school made the loss very difficult to cope with,” Dodge said.
That’s why Dodge became secretary of Stand Against Suicide (SAS), which was founded in 2010 by Tara Dennee in memory of her father, Wayne Olmstead, who died by suicide in 2008. The Elbridge-based organization gained nonprofit status in 2012. It seeks to raise awareness about the risks of mental illness and to encourage those in need to get help. Through a grant from the Pepsi Foundation and local fundraisers, Stand Against Suicide seeks to erase the stigma surrounding the discussion of mental illness and suicide. SAS hosts support group meetings every Tuesday at the Elbridge Community Church for those who have lost a loved one to suicide, for those struggling with depression or other mental illness and their family members and for volunteers looking to help.
“My hope is to make the public feel comfortable to talk about suicide and mental illness,” Dodge said. “Mental illness is like any other illness, and no one should ‘feel bad’ about it. I want the public to see the importance of having an organization like Stand Against Suicide that doesn't offer medical advice, but instead offers support through those rough days.”
Dodge, a wedding and event planner who has degrees in hospitality management and business, is organizing SAS’s second annual walk at the Inner Harbor, which will take place Saturday, Sept. 28. The walk begins and ends at the Inner Harbor Amphitheatre, with walkers following Onondaga Lake along the Creekwalk. They’ll pause along Hiawatha Boulevard for a “Stand-Off,” where all walkers will stand hand in hand and share a moment of silence to raise awareness for the cause. Prior to the walk, survivors of suicide — both those who have lost loved ones and those who have survived their own attempts — will share their stories in testimonials, and the names of those lost will be read. Registration and sign in are at 9 a.m. Guest speakers will begin at 10 a.m., and there will be a balloon release at around 10:30 a.m. The walk itself begins at 10:30 a.m. and activities will continue until about 1 p.m. Register at sasevents.org/2013walk.