More than 150 people came out to show their support for suicide prevention at the 2nd annual “Waukegan Cares Walk for Awareness” 3.1-mile event in Waukegan on Saturday.
Tom Granger, the organizer, said the walk began last year to bring awareness about suicides and make people aware there is help if you seek it out.
“Basically, we started this after the Waukegan Police Department lost police officers to suicide in two (consecutive) years,” he said.
According to the Lake County Public Health Department, suicide is a serious public health problem in Lake County, where 52 suicides took place in 2012 — more than twice the number of homicides reported that year.
The Lake County Coroner’s Office said suicides outnumber homicides over 3-to-1. Each year, 60 individuals in Lake County die of suicide. Nationwide, suicide is also a leading cause of death among youths.
Besides the walk, there was a dunk tank, K9 demonstration, and information booths set up by The Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center, Waukegan 9-1-1 Center, Vista Health, Lake County Health Department’s Trauma Treatment Program, Waukegan Public Library, Family Services, Chiro One, Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office, Norstates Bank (college tuition program), Lake-McHenry Veterans and Family Services, Waukegan Police Department, and the Lake County Suicide Prevention Task Force.
Dawn Williams of Racine, the director of suicide prevention for active military personnel at Naval Station Great Lakes, said she brought over a dozen men and women to the walk.
“Suicide affects all people of all ages. We want to get the word out that you should not be afraid to seek help,” she said.
Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim addressed the crowd before the walk and run, which he also walked in with his family.
“We live in a state that does an awful job of funding and treating mental illness. It’s up to us. Thank you for being part of the solution,” he said. “It’s something we have to work on together”
Greg Moisio, an alderman in Waukegan, also thanked the crowd.
“Obviously you care because you came here,” he said. “We all know how tragic it can be when it affects someone you know,” he said.
Working one of the booths inside was Tonnia Hinshaw, suicide-prevention coordinator for the Lovell Health Care Center. She was passing out information booklets and other items that has the veteran’s suicide hot line number: 1-800-273-8255 Press 1.
“Veterans can also go to the web site for confidential chats or they can text 838255,” she said.
Some of the warning signs include a person threatening to hurt themselves, speaking or writing about death, dying or suicide and seeking access to pills or weapons. People at risk can exhibit signs of hopelessness, rage, anger, feeling trapped, acting recklessly and having dramatic mood changes.
People contemplating suicide need to go to a mental health treatment center for help and keep follow-up appointments, said Hinshaw.
Lake County Sheriff Sgt. William Thorton said that “Suicide is an important subject for all of us because it can impact us in many different ways,” he said.
Sponsors of the fund-raiser were Vista Health, Wal-Mart, Waukegan Public Library, Waukegan F.O.P. Lodge 5, Waukegan Police Association, Coral Chemical, Cancer Treatment Center of America in Zion, Gurnee F.O.P. Lodge 266, Ink’ntees, Rental Depot, Norstates Bank, Russ Wells, and Waukegan Aldermen Greg Moisio, Lisa May, and Bill Valko.
SUICIDE PREVENTION TASK FORCE
The Lake County Suicide Prevention Task Force strives to deepen awareness, prevent suicide and save lives through education, linkage to resources, and treatment within the community. For more information, call: (847) 377-8180.