ABBOT, Maine — Although it has been three years since William Jody Day took his own life at age 19, it seems like only yesterday for his mother, Cheryl Morin.
The particular smile of a stranger, a familiar joke, or the smell of an article of clothing often triggers memories of her beloved son, known as “Joe,” and causes her heart to skip a beat. A mother never gets over losing a child, she said this week.
“You do whatever you can so that you can stay connected,” Morin said. “This is the way I survive, to help other people.”
For the Abbot woman, that means investing time and energy to help prevent others from taking their own lives by promoting suicide prevention programs.
Suicide, the third leading cause of death for people ages 15-24, gets whispered about more than it gets talked about, according to Morin. In 2004, there were 32,439 reported suicides in the United States, and at times Maine has had the highest rate in New England, she noted.
“We have to address this epidemic out in the open, without shame,” Morin said. Had she known the facts behind suicide earlier, she believes her son might be alive today.
Morin recalled that her son suffered from “low-grade” depression during his youth and had a tough time in school. “I learned along the way it can be a dangerous kind of depression because it lasts a long, long time and it needs to be treated,” she said.
Today, Morin is well aware of the possible warning signs and repeats them often to anyone who will listen. They roll off her tongue: look for isolation, sleeping and eating disorders, “roller-coaster” moodiness, difficulty concentrating and a preoccupation with death in music, poetry or writing. A person may drop out of activities, talk about death, put his affairs in order, and then show a sudden improvement because he has come to terms with the planned path, she said.
Anyone who suspects a person may be suicidal should show compassion, listen, and talk to the person, asking outright about feeling suicidal, never leave the person alone, and call the 24-hour Maine Suicide and Crisis Hotline at 888-568-1112, she said.
Morin said every school, organization, hospital, military family, church and adult education program should know about the programs and information offered by the Maine Youth Suicide Prevention Program.
“I totally believe that if we work together we can make a difference,” she said. “I know we can’t save every life, but we can sure try.”
Morin has completed a training course offered by the Maine Youth Suicide Prevention Program that allows her to teach a 90-minute suicide awareness training class.
She has held three classes throughout the state, and more are planned.
Morin also has formed the JD Foundation, which will serve as an educational tool to bring suicide prevention through awareness and education, she said. The foundation will target causes that may lead to suicide, such as depression and mental illness, through development of support programs centered on the interrelationship of mind, body and soul with exercise, nutrition and nature, she said.
“We believe that conditions that may lead to suicide are the result of an imbalance between these three areas,” Morin said. “Programs designed for people to maintain a more balanced system will target the cause before it goes too far.”
To raise funds, the foundation will hold a yard sale from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 22, 23 and 24 at the corner of Routes 15 and 6 in Abbot. Assisting Morin is her husband, Vic, their sons David, Chris and Paul, and good friend Linda Anderson. Donations for the yard sale have come from throughout New England, she said.
For more information on the foundation, contact Morin at 876-2295, or firstname.lastname@example.org.