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Woodstock vigil remembers those who died, helps those left behind

Caption
(Monica Maschak – mmaschak@shawmedia.com)
A McHenry County crisis worker (right) lights the candles of those whose lives have been touched by suicide as they were gathered at the Woodstock Square for a remembrance program in response to an increase in suicides in the area.

William. John. Grandma.

One by one the names were spoken – some softly, some firmly – by the people gathered early Saturday evening in Woodstock Square.

They were there to remember those lost to suicide.

The vigil was sponsored by area agencies to raise awareness about the growing number of suicides in McHenry County. It’s the first time something like this has been held in the county, said Despina McBride, clinical supervisor for the McHenry County Crisis Program.

As of Thursday, there had been 33 suicides in McHenry County this year, up from 17 in all of 2008, said McHenry County Coroner Marlene Lantz.

Suicide is typically committed by middle-aged men. While that’s true in McHenry County, a rising number of people who don’t fit that description are committing suicide, McBride said.

In McHenry County, they ranged in age from 20 to 72, and a third of them were women, Lantz said.

Crystal Tedesco, 38, of Cary, is still coming to grips with her brother’s death.

Dustin Fritz – known to those who knew him as Fritz – committed suicide in July. He was 39.

“He was one of those people that everybody that knew him was just drawn to him,” Tedesco said. “He had that star quality. You couldn’t help but like him. He was loud. He was kind of obnoxious, and he kind of reveled in that. He was my big brother, and I just looked up to him and adored him. I miss him terribly.”

Tedesco and her friend, Lynn Grant, 48, of Crystal Lake, came to the event together.

Grant lost her father, Carl Weiss, 76, also of Crystal Lake, in October 2011, but she hasn’t had a chance to grieve.

“I have kids, and I needed to jump into ‘take care of’ mode,” Grant said. “I didn’t grieve, and so an opportunity to come and do something like this gave me the opportunity to process the grief.”

As she spoke, she traced a picture of her father, who suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

“He was a very giving individual,” Grant said. “He gave to everybody, and he wanted to make a difference in his life. I can hold hope that if I share what I’ve learned from his mental illness and that it’s nothing to be ashamed of, that it’s something to stand up and recognize and admit, do something about it, then his life wasn’t in vain.”

The women sought out the support group Survivors of Suicide so they could talk through their guilt, pain and sadness and find others who were going through similar trials.

Tedesco hopes she can find closure, but she said right now it seems hopeless.

“I think people need to know that they are not alone and they’re not grieving alone,” McBride said. “To grieve from losing someone to suicide is way different than to lose somebody from a medical condition because there is a lot of stigma that goes with suicide.”

The vigil, which was attended by about 65 people, was another opportunity to let those affected by suicide know that, she said.

Organizers also emphasized the connection between suicide and depression. Depression is a factor in 90 percent of suicides, said Shira Greenfield, program manager of outpatient services at Centegra Health Services.

Greenfield is one of the members of the McHenry County Suicide Task Force, which was created in 2010 after a spike in the number of suicides.

For help

Call the McHenry County Crisis Line at 800-892-8900 or visit www.mchenry-crisis.org.

Suicide warning signs:

• Serious depression • Increasingly isolated • Giving away prized possessions • Sudden drop in school or work performance • Making statements about wanting to die • Acting in a violent fashion • Taking unnecessary risks • Threatening to commit suicide • Acting in a strange manner • Suddenly happy for no reason after a long depression • Abusing alcohol or other drugs

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