Suicide. The word reflects a stigma of darkness, isolation and ultimately, profound loss.
Farmington Hills city council member Ken Massey and his wife, Katherine, know the stigma associated with suicide all too well. They lost their adult son, Graham Edward Smith, to suicide in 2011. But rather than stay in the shadows, Massey, along with other community leaders, has sought to generate regular community conversations on the topic.
"We take an issue associated with suicide and have a conversation about it," Massey said of the gatherings. Previous topics have included "The Epidemic of Suicide" and suicide prevention among (LGBT) youth.
To get help with depression or suicidal thoughts, call Common Ground at 1-800-231-1127, Samaritan Counseling at 248-474-4701 or the National Suicide Prevention hot line at 1-800-231-TALK.
Massey will be among the participants at the next community conversation hosted by the Farmington Area Suicide Prevention Task Force (FASPTF) on Oct. 10, 7 p.m., at Farmington Hills city hall, on the use of the Internet and social media. Panelists and experts will discuss how so-called Internet addiction and other aspects of social media use contributes to suicide, particularly among teens.
Organizers are expecting about 50-60 people to attend the forum.
"We really want parents and kids to come out," Massey said. "We think bringing people together, to get a dialogue going, we can help and possibly prevent someone (particularly a young person) from taking such a drastic step."
Massey believes the community conversations on suicide are having a positive impact. He shared a story of two families who sought help for two troubled teens. The information the parents gathered from the task force helped get the teens into treatment, he said, and the teens have since rebounded.
Massey said his involvement with the task force has helped him to gradually move forward since the loss of his stepson over a year ago. "It helps with healing, kind of a therapy," he said. "It's still hard, lot of emotion tied to it (Graham's suicide), yet being involved with FASPTF helps to get through."
Among the panelists at the Oct. 10 conversation will be Mark Ostach, founder and owner of mymentalspace.com. Ostach and other panelists will assess the impact of the Internet and social media in areas including addiction, suicide, cyber bullying and ADHD.
For more information, contact the Farmington Hills city manager's office at 248-871-2500. You can also find the Farmington Suicide Awareness Group on Facebook.