MASON, Mich. — Mental health and suicide can be hard to talk about, but they don't always need to be.
More than 30 people gathered at Bestsellers in Mason Thursday night for an open mic event called "You Are Not Alone" centered around suicide prevention and awareness.
Some were there to speak, and others were there to listen.
Mason City Councilmember Rita Vogel, who is part of The Creative Collective, organized the event. For her, it's personal. Vogel's oldest daughter attempted suicide almost three years ago. It put her into in a five-day coma and left her with ongoing disabilities.
"She was struggling in college but yet, it was age-appropriate for someone freshman, sophomore year," Vogel said. "When she was down, you know it was, 'Go for a walk! Color! Read! Do yoga!' Me not understanding and her trying to be strong, and, because of my not seeking knowledge and education, it kept her further in self-destruction trying to make me happy."
Also in attendance was state Senator Curtis Hertel, who was a part of a four-person panel that concluded the night. Hertel spoke about legislation he introduced in March to prevent adolescent suicide and improve bullying laws.
"This community, and really honestly everyone community in my district has been touched recently by teenage suicide...and younger, actually. We have to do something," Hertel said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 680 10-to-24-year-olds in Michigan committed suicide between 2016 and 2018.
A 2017 survey found that 21 percent of Michigan's high school students seriously considered attempting suicide, according to the Michigan Suicide Prevention Commission.
"When people can tell their stories to people, there's a very powerful part of that and I think may be the best kind of activism in many ways," Hertel said.
Suicide prevention therapist and leader of the TriCounty Lifesavers Jennifer Cronkite was also a part of the panel.
"To talk about, how do we put prevention into the tri-county area. We have schools, we have faith organizations, we have local community supports, we have mental health professionals...because we've all decided that it is important to put our heads together and talk about preventing youth suicide," Cronkite said. "Yes, we're going to keep treating it, but let's prevent it."
Other speakers included poets Morgan Madden of Mason, whose mother committed suicide in 2003 when he was just 11 years old, Vicky Mennare of Charlotte, author of "Depression Confessions," whose father took his own life, Kelly Mays of Detroit, who both attempted and lost a loved one to suicide, and Kristine Brickey, author of "They Said She Was Crazy," and former Mason Public Schools teacher, lost her son to suicide.
"Since I lost my son, Robbie, on May 16, 2010, each day has been a new learning experience. I am no expert on suicide. I don't even know what that would mean. I do know the people who love and support me have made all the difference. I do know that hearing from others who are members in this awful club helped me understand that the roller coaster of grief I feel isn't crazy, that I'm not alone," Brickey read.
Below are resources for suicide awareness and prevention:
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