Suicide signs

Morgan Day

Myths hinder help from friends

Every minute, a suicide attempt is made.

Every 16 minutes in the United States, someone dies by suicide, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Suicides, as rare as they may seem, are actually three times more common than homicides, said Deborah Neuhart, emergency service manager at Townhall II in Kent.

“We hear about homicides, and we get outraged about homicides, but where’s the outrage about suicide?” Neuhart asked.

She said the major contributors to suicide are depression, drugs and alcohol.

In addition, the number of deaths by suicide in the winter months is not that much greater than at any other time, she said.

It’s a myth, Neuhart said, that if individuals talk about committing suicide, they won’t go through with it, or it will give others the idea to commit suicide.

A friend’s loss

Senior advertising major Carrie Johnston is living with the aftermath of suicide.

Johnston’s roommate, Melanie Scheinberg, took her own life in March 2005 while Johnston was studying abroad in England. She said she read an e-mail from Scheinberg hours after her death.

“She always started out her e-mails like ‘Howdy!,’ and she wrote the e-mail about hanging out with her boyfriend that day,” Johnston said.

In the e-mail, Scheinberg wrote about the funny movie she saw that day. She was excited about her own chance to study abroad. She couldn’t wait for her future.

“And she just took that all away,” Johnston said.

She had heard Scheinberg faced hard times in high school and had sought counseling, but she hadn’t seen a therapist since.

Effects of suicide

Johnston said she was greatly affected by Scheinberg’s death. She would have conniptions, and her emotions were sporadic.

“I was just livid, like so mad at her, and I would have dreams with her in them,” she said. “These dreams were always happy dreams. They made me feel good when I woke up – like Melanie’s in a better place.”

She said she was thankful to not be immersed in the situation going on at Kent State. She took a six-week backpacking trip that helped her face and overcome her rough emotions.

“I felt that I shared all my travels with Mel,” she said. “That’s how I personally dealt with it. I would talk to her and say, ‘Look, Mel. Look, I’m in Rome. Wish you could be here, and kind of a part of you is.'”

Although Johnston had come to grips with Scheinberg’s death, things changed once she returned to Kent State.

“I had to come back to Kent and see all the places that would remind me of Melanie, and it just broke me up inside,” she said.

Preventing Suicide

Johnston said Scheinberg had a boyfriend, spring break plans and aspirations for her future. Scheinberg never showed signs of being suicidal.

She said she was shocked that someone so “seemingly mentally stable” could take her own life.

Johnston said it’s important for individuals to open up and share their feelings. This, she said, could have saved Scheinberg’s life.

“She probably thought, ‘I don’t want to burden anybody with my problems. I’ll be doing everybody a favor by taking myself out of this world,'” Johnston said. “And that wasn’t true.”

Johnston said she’s sponsoring one of Scheinberg’s high school friends who is participating in a suicide prevention program. The program, “Out of the Darkness Overnight,” works through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

According to the program’s Web site, it gives individuals the chance to “cry, laugh, mourn, remember, heal and look toward the future without forgetting the past.”

Participants walk 20 miles from dusk till dawn through New York City to raise funds for suicide prevention.

Also, a new ad campaign by The Portage County Suicide Prevention Coalition started this month. Neuhart said the campaign aims to spread word that suicides are preventable.

Neuhart said she had one suggestion for individuals thinking about committing suicide or those who know someone who is.

“Call the (Townhall II) Helpline,” she said. “If you think your friend is suicidal, get them help. Call the Crisis Line. Don’t try to handle that by yourself.”

Townhall II’s 24-hour Crisis Line can be reached at (330) 678-HELP.

Contact safety reporter Morgan Day at [email protected].