A local family that lost their son to suicide held the fourth annual Gearin’ Up for Gabe 5K to raise funds that support suicide prevention that could help other families avoid from suffering the same type of loss.
Gearin’ Up for Gabe, a 5K run and walk, was first started five years ago as a fundraiser for the family, who lost their son, 19-year-old Gabe Johns. After that initial year, his parents Tim and Tina Johns decided to put the money towards prevention.
“I thought, ‘Never my child,’” said Gabe’s mom, Tina Johns. “And now I know it could be anybody’s child, anybody’s spouse, anybody’s grandparent.”
Tina wants to take the stigma surrounding suicide and depression away.
“I think ignorance plays a part. We think it’s just kids who come from bad homes or that abuse drugs. We don’t think it could be somebody that looks like they’re doing ok in life. The ones that smile.” she said.
According to the 2011 Youth Risk Behavioral Survey in Tennessee, over 1 out of 7 youth seriously considered suicide and almost 1 out of 16 made an attempt. For Macon County High School, with an enrollment of approximately 970 students, that’s about 139 students that seriously considered suicide and about 61 that have made an attempt.
That is why Tim and Tina believe in the importance of suicide prevention and education, both of which they feel are under served in our local area.
“I would like to see programs that worked with kids,” said Tina. “I would like to see the school systems take it seriously. To identify the warning signs. They are easily overlooked.”
“The signals of someone with suicidal thoughts:,” cites Laurenda Whisenhunt, a local marriage and family counselor, “are loss of youthful dreams, depression, high-risk behaviors such as substance abuse, unusual sexual behavior, reckless speeding or self-injury behaviors and decreased social support.”
What can you do if you suspect a loved one is in crisis? The Tennessee Statewide Toll-free Crisis Line is 1-855-CRISIS-1 (274-7471). You can call from anywhere in TN and talk to a live person 24-7. There is also a crisis text line someone can text for help. Text “TN” to 741-741. The number for the National Suicide Prevention line is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Whisenhunt also suggests some ways to suicide-proof your home. “Lock and limit medications. Teens who commit suicide use medications more than any other resource. Remove and lock firearms. The fact is that firearms are used in close to half of teen suicide deaths in the U.S. Provide support by paying attention to the teen’s moods and behavior. If you notice significant changes, ask them if they are thinking about suicide.”
Many people wrongly believe talking about suicide with someone who is depressed will only encourage them.
“Many depressed people have already considered suicide as an option,” states the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network (TSPN) website. “Discussing it openly helps the suicidal person sort through the problems and generally provides a sense of relief and understanding. It is one of the most helpful things you can do.”
TSPN has been the recipient of Gearin Up for Gabe funds for the past two years. Their website, www.tspn.org, is full of resources for grief support, training, education, and statistics, and more.