Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Walk raises suicide awareness

Since joining the PSUC faculty in August 2014, I have experienced the warmth and caring of our campus community. These qualities stayed in my mind as I traveled to Pennsylvania to visit family for the holidays at the end of last year. Then, while preparing to return to Plattsburgh on Dec. 30, we lost my brother David to suicide. He was 25.

There are many factors that contribute to suicide, and my brother’s death is no less complicated. There are no simple facts as to how it could have been prevented. What is clear is that suicide is prevalent in our society, a fact that I have experienced firsthand as many people have approached me after learning of David’s suicide (as my family and I have chosen to publicly identify it) and disclosed, often in hurried whispers, that they too have lost someone — or dearly love someone who has.

As a member of the LGBT community, I know well that I cannot ever tell anyone what part of their story to share or identity to disclose. I further acknowledge that I value professionalism, privacy and decorum. But suicide does not respect these values. It is a cultural and social ill that thrives on shame and silence.

It is also true that our society does not deal well with death, and especially that of a young person. Thus, I would doubtless experience some degree of awkwardness and avoidance even if I were grieving the loss of my brother due to an accident or a physical disease. But there is an extra fear which I often sense when I speak of David’s death. It’s a fear of hearing his name, of acknowledging the truth of what happened, in all of its pain.

The Out of Darkness Campus Walk, sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, comes to PSUC on May 3. I hope you will consider joining me, in remembrance of David and others whom we have lost, and in the hope of healing moving forward.

Sarah Owocki
Coordinator and Lecturer, English as a Second Language

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