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NOT ALONE

Survivors of Suicide hosts day of healing for families

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SOS Loss Day 2

Stormy Remington looks at pictures of her brother, Tib Ottley, Tuesday at the Elko Daily Free Press.

ELKO — The number of suicides in Elko County has steadily increased over the past few years, but a local group is working to spread awareness and prevention.

Elko County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sgt. Nick Czegledi said there were eight suicides in the county in 2013, and 12 last year. For 2015 to-date, there have been 16. Czegledi runs the coroners program for the sheriff’s office.

This Saturday, Survivors of Suicide of Northeastern Nevada is hosting an event to tell the families of those who have died by suicide that they are not alone.

Five years ago, Stormy Remington got the news that her brother had taken his own life.

“I was angry for a very long time,” Remington said.

She told the Free Press that her brother Tib Ottley, 31, was working as a chef in Wyoming and had battled depression most of his life. After his death, she reached out to her coworkers and learned about Survivors of Suicide of Northeastern Nevada.

“I’ve been involved ever since,” she said.

Saturday is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. In 1999, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., introduced a resolution and Congress passed it, designating the Saturday before Thanksgiving as “National Survivors of Suicide Day.” Reid’s father killed himself in 1972, according to survivorday.org.

The local event takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Flag View Intermediate School library, 777 Country Club Drive. It will include a 30-minute video from the American Foundation of Survivors of Suicide, followed by a light lunch and a discussion.

Afterward, SOS will host art therapies. Attendees are asked to bring a photo copy of their loved one who died by suicide.

“The most important message is suicide is preventable,” said Lynette Vega, who co-facilitates the group with Remington. “The more we talk about suicide prevention, the more we will break through the stigma of asking for help.”

Vega believes that many people are afraid to ask for help when they have depression or thoughts about killing themselves.

“Asking for help does not make you a weak person,” she said. “It makes you a strong person in knowing and realizing you need help. Keep asking for help until someone helps you.”

Remington said her brother’s death by suicide was unexpected, but there were some warning signs. She believes it would have helped him to have someone else to talk to about his feelings.

The video Saturday will focus on the stories of several families who’ve gone through the healing process.

“There’s different ways of healing through something like this,” she said.

In her own life, it took time and venting to members of the SOS group to realize she didn’t have to be angry anymore.

“We all have the same feelings — the whys, what-ifs and guilt,” she said. “… It’s a group you hope you’re never a part of, but you’re glad it’s there.”

Saturday’s event aims to help family and friends of those who died by suicide by telling them they aren’t alone. It’s often hard to talk about this with people who haven’t experienced it because they don’t truly understand, Vega said.

“It is a roller-coaster ride,” she said, because there are two catastrophes you’re dealing with — the death of a loved one, and knowing he or she died by choice.

“I guess I was ready to move on and help people rather than be angry at him,” Remington said about her decision to become a facilitator for SOS.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of suicidal thoughts, suicide planning and suicide attempts is significantly higher among young adults 18-29 years old than among adults 30 or older. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among people 15-24 years old, accounting for 20 percent of all deaths annually for that age group, the CDC stated.

Data collected by the Division of Public and Behavioral Health shows that between 2006 and 2012, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in Elko County — there were 80 altogether.

Also during that time period, the county saw $380,893 in billed expenses and 2,589 potential years of life lost. Eighty-percent were male — most were between the ages of 25 and 64.

Misty Vaughan Allen, suicide prevention coordinator of Nevada in the Office of Suicide Prevention, reported that Nevada ranked sixth in the nation for suicide rate in 2013.

SOS hosts another event in September every year, and local facilitators are also trying to spread the message of prevention. Remington and Vega go to local schools to talk about the warning signs leading up to someone taking his or her life.

“They have this myth that if you talk about it, it puts it in people’s minds,” Remington said. “That’s so not true.”

Last week, the Free Press spoke to members of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. One member said it’s important not to ignore someone talking about committing suicide.

“It’s so much better to talk about it,” the NAMI member said.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention states “Studies show that people do not start thinking about suicide just because someone asks them about it. If you suspect a friend or loved one is suicidal, tell them that you are worried and want to help them.”

Remington said her brother told her family members that he wanted to kill himself about six months prior to his death. They didn’t want to believe it because he was intoxicated at the time.

She believes things are changing for the better when it comes to prevention.

“I think people are thinking now that you can talk about it,” Remington said.

However, Elko residents need to be more aware of the services available locally, she said. Information can be obtained by calling Elko Counseling and Supportive Services at 738-8021.

Teens who are thinking about suicide can text “Listen” to 839863 to talk to someone on a helpline, Remington said.

The local peer-to-peer support group, NAMI, meets every week on Thursday from 5-7:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church.

Families of those who have taken their own lives are encouraged to participate in Survivor Day. They can contact Survivors of Suicide of Northeastern Nevada at sosofelko@gmail.com or by calling Lynette at 397-1911 or Stormy at 385-6569.

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