Bringing suicide into the light

Bringing suicide into the light

September 14 event to focus on prevention and remembering victims

By Julie Gerke

A luminary walk of remembrance is planned Sept. 14 to honor the memories of those lost to suicide.

Held on National Suicide Prevention Day, the local event begins at 6:30 p.m. at the stage in Central Park Plaza, downtown Jacksonville. Prayers, words from community health educator Heather Harlan and music by the JHS Madrigal Singers are planned, along with information tables and chalk art.

Hosted by STARS: For Suicide Prevention, the event will be the first since 2019. In case of rain, the event will be at Central Christian Church, 359 W. College Ave. in Jacksonville.

“[Suicide] needs to be talked about; it’s definitely hard to talk about,” said group founder Kelly Cannon of Jacksonville. “It needs to be talked about in a way there is hope, so [people know] there are people out there to listen.”

The local group began in 2014 as the Morgan-Scott Suicide Prevention Coalition; the name change reflects a Ralph Waldo Emerson saying: “When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” Formally, the acronym stands for “Seek, Trust, Ask, Respond, Save a life.”

No pre-registration for the event is necessary; the luminaries are free and participants may share the name of their lost loved one to be written on the bag. The event is open to the public.

“Be open to listen,” Cannon said. “If you see someone who’s struggling, don’t be afraid to ask ‘Do you feel like hurting yourself?’” Immediate mental health help is available by calling 988; if you suspect immediate harm, call 911 and ask police to conduct a welfare check.

Longer-term counseling and referrals also are available through family doctors, school guidance offices and clergy.

Signs of possible suicide ideation include someone being “down” or depressed, increased alcohol or drug usage, feeling they are a burden to others, being withdrawn or isolated and extreme mood swings.

Every year since 2016, from three to six people have taken their lives in Morgan County, representing about 1.6% or fewer of all deaths in the county for each of those years. Three people have died by suicide so far in 2023, according to statistics provided by the Morgan County Coroner’s Office.

“Just be there for each other,” Cannon said. “Know that everyone has issues going on in their lives, some more than others, through no fault of their own. … Anything we can do to encourage and help them in any way to help them come out of that darkness.”

STARS meets at 4 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month at Central Christian Church, 359 W. College Ave. The group also has information on its Facebook page; those with questions should contact the group through Facebook Messenger.


Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Call or text 988

Crisis Line: Text HELLO to 741741

Illinois Warm Line (recovery support): Call 1-866-359-7953 Mon-Sat 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. except holidays

Veterans Crisis Line: Call 988, press 1 at the prompt, or text 838255

The Trevor Project Lifeline-LGBTQ+: Text START to 678-678 Or call 1-866-488-7386

Illinois Helpline for Opioids and Other Substances: Call 1-833-234-6343 or text HELP to 833234

Community Hope & Recovery Center: 121 E. Second St., Beardstown; call 1-217-323-2980

Memorial Behavioral Health: 340 W. State St., Jacksonville; call 1-217-243-6702

SIU Psychiatry: 1600 W. Walnut St., Jacksonville: call 1-217-245-7275 or 1-217-525-8000

Source: STARS: For Suicide Prevention

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