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Daily Journal
     February 5, 2020      #25-36 KDJ

Suicide Symposium offers help to those in

Chris Breach

Jacob Levy knew he had to do something.

The coordinator of discipleship and evangelism at St. John Paul II Parish, Levy was moved by teenagers’ reaction to a friend who took his own life this past year. The 15-year-old was a parishioner at St. John Paul II.

“I noticed at the funeral Mass a lot of the students were coming out the door and were just devastated,” Levy said. “They were crying, and they couldn’t talk. I believe they were his friends, and they were probably just taken aback by the fact that he even did such a thing.”

The teen was part of the Hispanic community and was a student at Kankakee High School.

“That was kind of the start of it to know that things were happening in the parish, and we needed to kind of address it, make people aware of the suicidal stuff going on in the area,” Levy said.

The Kankakee Catholic church at 956 S. 10th Ave. will be hosting a Suicide Symposium from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15. It’s open to the community. There will be breakout sessions for adults and teenagers and a question-and-answer portion to the symposium. The symposium is bilingual, and translators will be available for those who speak only Spanish. Other health agencies will be manning booths, including Aunt Martha’s and Harbor House.

Levy, who worked as a counselor for 40 years, brought the subject up at a staff meeting at the parish, and Father John Horan, associate pastor, jumped on board.

Horan will speak at the symposium, as well as Dr. Brandon H. Myers of the Samuel R. Myers Foundation for Suicide and Mental Health Awareness. Myers’ son, Samuel, committed suicide when he was 19.

“The motivating factor behind it was the teenager, but just a sense this problem has been going on and it stays in the shadows,” Levy said. “People don’t know what to do and are kind of surprised when it really happens.

“One of our aims is to make people aware of the problem. ... We need to be aware of some of the signs.”

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second-leading cause of death of children between the ages of 15 and 24. Also, it’s the fourth-leading cause among adults 18 to 65. Every day, approximately 123 die by suicide in the U.S., which accounts for 44,965 deaths per year.

In Kankakee County, 18 people committed suicide in Kankakee County last year, up from 4 from 2018, according to the coroner’s office.

The average age of people who died by suicide has increased from 40 years old in 2017 to 54 years old in 2019. However, the deadliest age groups for suicides in 2019 were people in their 20s and 80s, with four people from each age group.

“We don’t talk about it like a cancer, but it is a cancer,” Levy said.

The main causes for suicide are depression, anxiety, other mental illnesses like bipolar disorder, and drug and alcohol use, according to the CDC. According to the Samuel R. Myers Foundation, an estimated 26% of Americans, age 18 and older, suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. And 53% of children (3-17) have one or more emotional, behavioral or developmental condition.

“We just think there’s a lot of people who need help and just make them aware that there’s help for them,” Levy said. “They don’t have to live that secret life. We’re here to help one another to shoulder the burden of each other.

“It started out as a Christian thing, but then once we started talking about it, it became a community thing.”

If You Go

WHAT: Suicide Symposium

WHEN: 1-3 p.m. Feb. 15

WHERE: St. John Paul II Parish Settles Center (gym), 956 S. 10th Ave., Kankakee

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