ABBOT, Maine — If people contemplating suicide could realize the heartbreak and suffering of the loved ones they leave behind, they would no longer consider it an option, according to Cheryl Morin of the JD Foundation in Abbot.
Morin, whose son William Jody Day took his life at age 19 in November 2005, has made it her mission since his death to help prevent more suicides. She travels throughout the state sharing her pain and telling her story of how things might have been different had she recognized the warning signs.
“We get to talk about suicide and we get to know that it’s OK to talk about it,” Morin said recently.
Those talks have helped. Morin said two young adults between the ages of 19 and 22 came up to her after one session and told her they had called the crisis hot line using the number provided on her business card. A third young adult had asked to speak to a social worker who was present during one of her talks, she said.
“I’ve also had people call me who were suicidal,” Morin added. Morin said she is not a therapist and does not operate a crisis hot line, but those who reach out to her know she is approachable, she said.
“I do the appropriate thing and send them to the appropriate place. I also let them know that because my son chose this way, I will never be the same.” Morin said she makes it a point to tell a suicidal person that somebody in their family or a friend will be gravely affected by their decision to take their life should they do that.
Suicide claims more lives of young people than cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia and influenza, and chronic lung disease combined, and it is the fourth-leading cause of years of potential life lost in Maine, according to the Maine Suicide Prevention Program website.
The state program, which is under the Department of Health and Human Services, provides resources such as a statewide crisis hot line and an information resource center, mobile crisis outreach, and training and education programs, according to Linda Williams, the program’s education and training project director.
Williams said that it’s a common myth that more people in Maine take their lives in December than other months. National statistics show that Maine, which has ranked above the average for suicide in the New England states, actually has the lowest suicide rate in December of any month, Williams said. The state’s worst months for suicide are April and May and that may be because some depressed people get a sharper focus of how hopeless they may feel when spring arrives, she said.
The highest suicide rates across the nation are among men ages 45 to 54 and those men use highly lethal methods, Williams said. Typically, the mountainous Western states, including Alaska, Montana and New Mexico, have the highest suicide rates.
Since Williams works limited hours for the program and does not have time to speak to groups, she said she is grateful for Morin’s work. “Cheryl has made it her mission to be able to fill that need,” Williams said.
To do that, Morin raises funds through her foundation and she has gone a step further. She and her husband, Victor Morin, have started a “Connecting with Spirit” program that connects people with nature.
The new program is designed to help get to the root of suicide, Morin said. “People are ashamed to be depressed and they’re ashamed if they have mental illness, but if we chose to look at it like an illness instead of something taboo, we realize that it needs to be treated just like any disease,” she said.
Once people are outside in nature, they get a “feeling inside that they don’t get anywhere else,” she said. She and her husband have led eight walks this year with between eight and 40 people ages 2 to 85. These free trips, meant to help the soul, are open to anyone, she said.
As long as she has a breath, Morin said, she and her husband will continue to promote suicide prevention. “We do it because we’re compassionate people and want to help,” she said. “I don’t want anyone else doing what my son did.”
For more information on Morin’s foundation and the training offered call 876-2295 or visit www.thejdfoundation.org.