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Photo provided via Jane Riley.

Athens County Survivors of Suicide Loss Day Event promotes remembrance, support

The Athens County Survivors of Suicide Loss Day Event is a safe space for those who have experienced a loss due to suicide, have survived an attempt or anyone who wants to show their support.

The Athens County Suicide Prevention Coalition and the National Alliance on Mental Illness Athens (NAMI) are collaborating to host this second annual event that allows for building connections and understanding what suicide is for a human. 

This year, the event will be hosted virtually through Zoom. Being online, the event still plans to host at-home programs to create a feeling of togetherness. 

Suicide can sometimes come with a stigma of guilt, shame and self-blame, but this event wants to lead in the direction of hope and survival.

“We really want this to be an opportunity for people to get together to promote connection and healing and resilience,” Jane Riley, an organizer for the Athens County Survivors of Suicide Loss Day Event and a survivor of suicide loss, said. “We want to allow people to engage in the activities that they're interested in – where they feel comfortable. Everybody's healing and grieving process is unique.”

Riley feels healing involves time and this event aims to give time and space to those who need it. It will be a place for talking or listening.

“In the last couple years, I have gotten more involved, as part of the fabric of the community treatment of mental illness,” Tina Trimmer, executive director of NAMI, said. “We are happy to be part of the Athens County Suicide Prevention Coalition. And in that role, I do less of the hands-on planning, and more of ‘We are the treasurer’ for that group – so I hold all of our donation money, and I pay bills for the coalition as needed. Sometimes with events like this, there are costs, and I read the checks.”

The Athens County Suicide Prevention Coalition works closely with this event, promotes advocacy about this sensitive topic and helps raise awareness of suicide prevention.

This year, one of the activities will be the creation of a remembrance quilt.

“Our goal is to have a community remembrance quilt where individuals and families can get a quilting square fabric and create it any way they would like,” Riley said. “They can write on it, they can embroider it or glue things to it. They can create a square, in honor of their loved ones who died by suicide.”

With the event being digital, a group walk will not take place, but an at-home memory walk is strongly encouraged.

“The journey of grief and healing continues – one step at a time,” Riley said. “It’s kind of an ‘at your own pace’ thing.” 

The walk symbolizes grief and how everyone deals with it differently and faces different journeys. Furthermore, the event is a chance for growth and vulnerability, Riley said. An activity revolving around growth after loss will occur as well. 

“Personally, this walk means so much to me,” Faye Bumgardner Wilson, an organizer of this event, said. “My mom died by suicide in 1985. Anything I can do to help others helps me heal.”

Attendees will experience other people’s stories and share their own experiences. Providing resilience, the community plans to heal together. 

“Last year, the first year of our event, was amazing,” Bumgardner Wilson said. “People stood up and told their personal stories on how suicide has affected their lives. My goal is to end the stigma of suicide and mental health issues. Saving one person from going through what I did, at the age of 19, will make it all worth it to me.”


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