The City of Royal Oak is taking a proactive approach to prevention of a growing epidemic that remains largely silent in most communities: Suicide. To break that silence, the task force, called Royal Oak SAFE (Suicide Awareness is For Everyone), presents an "Evening of Empowerment," on Wednesday, Sept. 25 from 6-8:30 p.m. at Royal Oak Middle School, 709 N. Washington Ave.
Designed to help erase the stigma and encourage suicide prevention through dialogue and support, the event is for any resident or guest that wants to create a healthier, safer community.
Panelists include survivors, mental health professionals and representatives from the Royal Oak SAFE Task Force including Common Ground, Haven, Beaumont Health System, Mind Over Matter, Royal Oak Schools and the City of Royal Oak.
Featured speakers include Jeff Edwards, president of the Michigan Chapter of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, who lost his 12-year old son, Chase, to suicide in 2003; 15-year old Emily Harris, who survived her brother's suicide and is eager to share her journey; Dr. William S. Miles, Director of Psychiatric Inpatient Services at Beaumont Royal Oak, and others.
"This is the most important committee I have participated in. We have been silent on this subject for too long, and far too many of us have suffered the loss of family members, friends or colleagues to suicide," said Royal Oak SAFE member Jack Salter, an iconic community leader and retired 44th District Court probation officer.
Third leading cause of death for young peopleSalter's statement is backed by statistics. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that suicide is the tenth leading cause of death for all ages, and the third leading cause of death for 12-24 year olds in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is linked to treatable mental illnesses, which one in five people experience at some time in their lives. They also report that adult suicides in Michigan have doubled in recent years and are higher than the national average.
Royal Oak SAFE launched in 2013 by unanimous approval of the City Commission and Chief of Police after a spate of suicides at a local gun range.
"I could not continue reading the reports of suicide without doing something about it," said City Commissioner Peggy Goodwin, who lost her own father, a World War II Veteran, to suicide in 1968. "I, too, have been silent for too long. After doing my own research and reaching out to Farmington Hills Council member Ken Massey, founder of Farmington Hills SAFE, I realized we have an epidemic on our hands. Nothing will be gained if we stay silent," she said.
Police Chief Corrigan O'Donohue agrees.
"As police officers, we are not just about enforcing the law, we are also about supporting the community. I think this is a major step in helping to prevent many tragedies by giving people the courage and the resources to seek help," O'Donohue said.
Goodwin also reached out to fellow survivor Julie Farhat, who founded Mind Over Matter (lovingly referred to as MOM) and started the MOM Race in Royal Oak after losing her mother to suicide in 2005.
"While MOM raises money and awareness for suicide prevention, this community dialogue also strengthens our message that Royal Oak is taking the lead on suicide prevention," Farhat said.
Royal Oak SAFE is asking the media to help heighten awareness about suicide prevention.
"Suicide is more prevalent than deaths by homicide, natural disasters and many other causes of death," said Royal Oak SAFE member Maureen Elliott, Community Relations liaison for Beaumont Health System. "We need the power of the media to help erase the stigma and encourage people to help themselves and help others," she said.
Guests will interact with representatives and gain resources from organizations including, but not limited to: The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Royal Oak Senior Center, Common Ground, HAVEN, Beaumont Health System (including their BRIDGE program), Royal Oak Community Coalition, Royal Oak Youth Assistance, Oakland County Community Mental Health, Inner Door Center, South Oakland Shelter, Oakland Family Services, Catholic Social Services, Recovery Consultants International, Eastwood Clinic and the University of Michigan Depression Center.
For more information on Royal Oak SAFE's "Evening of Empowerment," on September 25, please visit the City of Royal Oak's website at www.ci.royal-oak.mi.us.
If you go
- When: Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013
- Where: Royal Oak Middle School Auditorium, 709 N. Washington Ave.
- Doors Open: 6:00 p.m.
- Program: 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Source: Royal Oak Safe