By A’nire Glenn
“I can guarantee you that on July 15, 1997, I didn’t think that suicide was any kind of a threat to my family whatsoever,” Clark Flatt said. “I went home on July 16, 1997, to find that my youngest son Jason, had written two notes, took my .38-caliber pistol, placed it beside his head and pulled the trigger.”
Flatt is the founder of the Jason Foundation, a suicide prevention organization.
The Jason Foundation recently held its second suicide prevention event on Florida A&M University’s campus in the the Grand Ballroom.
“Suicide is the leading cause of preventable death,” said Flatt, who added that suicide is a “national public health crisis.”
Flatt provided statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that from 2006-2016, youth suicide rates increased by 70 percent in the United States.
Nonprofit organizations and health services known nationwide, including Tallahassee-based groups, attended the event to spread awareness about their causes as well.
Kathryn Myers, a grief counselor at Big Bend Hospice, shared the importance of mental health awareness as part of suicide prevention strategies.
“We have various different grief support including suicide loss. We’re here to let the community know about the support we have. A lot of times people know the part about palliative care, making sure people are comfortable when their dying. People don’t realize that when someone’s died there’s also support for the families,” Myers said.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Tallahassee was also in attendance. Denise Barber, the first vice president of the Tallahassee division of NAMI, has two grandchildren with mental illnesses.
“We are an advocacy organization. We are grassroots. We are parents, caregivers, loved ones of individuals who have been diagnosed with a mental illness. We are not professionals, we don’t do treatments, we’re not clinicians. We are people who have lived experience,” Barber said.
Tomahawk Psychiatry is a new private practice in Tallahassee. Having been open for a month, Dr. Wesley Runkle is looking forward to helping new patients. “Mental health is just as important as physical health,” Runkle said.
The suicide prevention event was attended by members of the Tallahassee professional community, as well as FAMU students.
“I’m a part of Active Minds. We’re a mental health organization here on FAMU’s campus and we are trying to bring awareness to mental health,” said Yolanda Tervil, a junior healthcare management student.
Capital Regional Behavioral Health Center also provided backpacks filled with brochures and informational pamphlets from the vendors.