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THE SAGINAW NEWS
Friday, November 21, 2008
Alice Garon LaBonte of Mount Pleasant lost two sons to suicide in 2005 and 2006.
The painful aftermath threatened her life, she said, but she is raising her voice for them and others lost in depression.
”It challenged me to my core. When I lost my first son, it was as though I heard a quiet inner voice saying, ‘Be my voice.’ I vowed to be a voice to educate others. I knew I had to go on.”
Garon LaBont, 69, will take part in a panel discussion Saturday during a National Survivors of Suicide Day memorial at the Bay-Arenac Intermediate School District Career Center, 4155 Monitor in Bay City.
For the fifth year, the Saginaw Survivors of Suicide support group is observing the day with a panel of residents who have lost loved ones to suicide, inspirational speakers and resources.
Barb J. Smith, 47, of Thomas Township organizes the group and is a leading advocate for suicide prevention and awareness.
The Bay Arenac Suicide Prevention Coalition also sponsors the day.
Mid-Michigan’s event will offer a talk with artist Ben Glenn; a healing ceremony with Steve Pago, member of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe; and a dream catcher project. ”Healing the Spirit” is the theme. Anyone who has lost a friend or family member to suicide is invited to the free event, which includes lunch and discussion groups.
Garon LaBont’s older son Norman was 47 when he died and the younger Gregory was 46; both fought depression for years and were taking medication to treat it, she said. She has a third son who survives.
”You all carry guilt and shame about it happening in your family,” she said.
She felt seduced by the desire to ”disappear into nothingness,” but fought back, found medication that helped and the Saginaw support group, she said.
”(Smith) offered such hope. If I could prevent one death, I knew it would bring honor to them.”
About 20 people regularly attend the support group that meets twice a month at Child and Family Service of Saginaw, 2806 Davenport, Smith said. She also speaks at schools in Saginaw, Midland and Bay counties, and plans to train others to help with outreach. Smith lost her 20-year-old brother to suicide.
A study published last month in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows the national suicide rate is increasing for the first time in a decade, particularly among middle-aged white women.
In 2004, the latest year full statistics were available, suicide was the 11th leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for 32,439 deaths.
”I’ve seen rates going up locally since the summer,” said Smith, who works with mid-Michigan police to notify families of suicides and offer support afterward. ”I think the environment of stress and alcohol and substance abuse is hurting. People are worried about finances.” v
The National Survivors of Suicide Day memorial event is from 8:30 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Bay-Arenac Intermediate School District Career Center, 4155 Monitor in Bay City.
For information about the Saginaw Survivors of Suicide support group and other resources, call Barb Smith at 781-5260 or e-mail email@example.com.