ABBOT, Maine — Two Abbot-area men will bicycle across the state in June to raise awareness about suicides, a subject that is very close to one of them.
Vic Morin of Abbot, who will be joined on June 20 by his friend Blaine Burhoe of Dover-Foxcroft for the two-week ride from Fort Kent to Kittery, lost his stepson William Jody Day to suicide in November 2005.
That profound loss spurred Morin and his wife, Cheryl, to form the JD Foundation, a nonprofit organization that’s devoted to helping prevent other suicides through education and awareness. The ride will help raise funds for the suicide prevention training sessions the foundation offers throughout the state.
‘’Within the state of Maine, suicide remains the second leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 34,’’ Katharyn Zwicker, assistant director of the Maine Injury Prevention Program, said this week.
An average of 174 suicides occur each year in Maine, according to Zwicker. In 2008, the latest year for which figures are available, there were 181 deaths by suicide in Maine. Every week on average, there are three suicides.
According to a 2009 Maine Intregrated Youth Health Survey, 13.8 percent of high school students said that in the past 12 months they had seriously considered attempting suicide. In addition, 16.6 percent had done something purposely to hurt themselves without wanting to die.
In the same study, Zwicker said, 19.5 percent of middle school students said they had seriously thought of killing themselves.
Much work is being conducted to eliminate those needless deaths, according to Zwicker. “We take suicide prevention in the state of Maine very seriously,” she added. “We have done phenomenal work, which has been recognized across the country for our suicide prevention work with youth, partnering with schools, law enforcement, mental health clinicians, and agencies to address this head on.”
Helping toward that end is the JD Foundation, which is working to find ways to combat the depression that contributes to suicides. The Morins offer adults free 90-minute training that includes the warning signs and myths about suicide, as well as information about how to deal with a suicidal person and the aftermath of a suicide.
Because exercise helps reduce stress, Cheryl Morin said, she and her husband thought the bicycle trek would be a good way to raise awareness about suicide and allow participants to get a good workout. She is encouraging anyone to join in on the ride, even if for short jaunts through various communities en route to Kittery. The Morins also are looking for volunteers willing to feed and house them along their trip on U.S. Route 1.
On the ride, Vic Morin and Burhoe will be carrying information on suicide prevention and the names of loved ones who died from suicides. Anyone wishing to include a name should send a 6½- inch square piece of material in light blue or beige with a name or message on it before May 30. The names and messages will be embroidered on the material prior to the trip.
The material and tax-deductible donations can be forwarded to the JD Foundation, 107 Main Road, Abbot ME 04406. For information on the JD Foundation, visit www.thejdfoundation.org.