To the Editor:
On November 10th, on a star filled night, I drove up the mountain to the former Kutz Camp in Warwick to attend a mental health forum by “We the People Warwick.” Spearheaded by Ms. Beverly Braxton and a team of dedicated members who organized this township-wide forum made up of panelists representing various sectors of our community. It was one of the first in a series. We shared information, experiences, and our own perspectives about mental health and the available resources in our community – and there are plenty! I was part of this panel as a mental health and suicide prevention advocate.
The theme was “You are not alone.” I did not feel so alone that night in my own community discussing mental health, and in particular suicide. I’ll tell you why. I have been in this community for over 32 years. We raised our three children in this beautiful valley we still call home. In 2008 we lost our son Daniel at the age of 20 to suicide. There are no words to describe losing a child. Suicide adds an extra dimension to this grief. We wish this on no one. I needed to share Danny’s story, as I’ve done since his passing. Every 40 seconds in the world someone dies by suicide; every 41 seconds their loved ones are left behind to wonder why? That was us. We call ourselves “survivors of suicide loss.” We know what is like to feel alone. The early days of losing someone, especially to suicide are one of the most vulnerable times. We don’t know how we will ever make it through. The many questions and things to unravel becomes overwhelming. Oftentimes, the survivors themselves are also struggling with mental health conditions. The aftermath of a suicide, does not end with the person who dies. It affects the entire family, friends, and the community at large.
We all process our grief differently. I decided to embark on a journey of healing, training, creating awareness, preventing suicide, speaking to people, signs to look for, advocating for legislative change, battling the stigma, educating, having healing conversations with loss survivors, and most of all to be my son’s voice. For the past 14 years I have been volunteering with the American Foundation for suicide prevention, an organization in the forefront of research, advocacy, outreach and education. Through “Tista 4 Life” in memory of Daniel Battista, I have been able to do further outreach, facilitate peer support groups, blood drives, walks, and continue his legacy in my local community. Why? Because I don’t want anybody else to lose a loved one. In helping others, I found it helps me too. I keep his memory alive, and try as best to move forward.
You see, I believe that some who take their life, do not want to die. They want the pain to stop. Danny had a full calendar for his future. We know that suicide does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone, at any age, at any time. These are the facts, in 2020 over 46 thousand Americans died by suicide. Some people are more at risk for suicide than others. Risk factors are characteristics or conditions, that when combined increase the chance that a person may try to end their life. It is never one single reason. Suicide most often occur when stressors and health issues converge to create an experience of hopelessness and despair. Most people exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say or what they do. Depression is the most common condition, and it often goes undiagnosed or untreated. However, it does not mean that because one has a mental health condition, that they will die by suicide. Most people who actively manage their mental health condition go on to engage in life. Conditions like depression, anxiety, and substance use problems, especially when unaddressed, increase the risk for suicide.
Unfortunately I know of too many since my son. But contrary to what people may think, suicide is preventable. There is Hope.
There are resources and trainings available. I have seen positive changes in the last 14 years regarding awareness that we worked hard to advocate for. We now have a 3 digit crisis number in Orange County 311; Nationally the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline; The 1800 273-TALK (8255) is still active; Text line at 741 741. All are 24/7 confidential help and support. There are many other programs in place locally through the various organizations including ours, and those represented at this forum.
There are no easy answers when it comes to mental health concerns and suicide prevention. That’s why local forums like these are so important. The conversations need to continue, but not behind closed doors, or within our own bubbles. I feel it needs to happen in this type of format, with great collaboration and community wide.
For more information on We The People Mental Health Forum, and their other initiatives, please visit www.wethepeoplewarwick.org
Please visit www.afsp.org for suicide prevention information.
You can also reach out to me, “Danny’s Mom.”
Judy Battista (Tista 4 Life) Warwick, NY
** If you, or someone you know is in crisis please contact: 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline; or 1800-273-TALK (8255); 311 Crisis Help Line in Orange County, NY. Text Line at 741 741. Confidential help and support is available 24/7.