By John Sullivan
Few deaths scar a community as deeply as a teen suicide. Even so, Ann Marie D’Aliso, who lost her son Patrick, 16, to suicide in 2004, had difficulty finding a school that would allow her to talk to kids about her family tragedy.
“It was a topic that the schools didn’t know how to handle,” D’Aliso said of suicide. “It was the fear that if you talk about it, it will happen.”
Doors have opened for D’Aliso, albeit slowly, triggered in some cases by more tragedy, such as two suicides in the Monroe-Woodbury School District last year. D’Aliso and other suicide survivors have been opening the eyes of school officials and other leaders about the need for more awareness about suicide in communities where mention of the topic was once considered anathema.
She is part of a growing group of suicide survivors in our region who are making up the heart, as well as the muscle, behind a rapidly evolving awareness and prevention campaign that state mental health officials say is helping to keep New York’s suicide rate one of the lowest in the nation.
Driven by their grief, these survivors rally behind the belief that more talk, not less, will help remove the stigma associated with suicide, and possibly even help eradicate the problem.
In doing so, they are challenging long-held conventions about how to address the topic among vulnerable populations, even as they help energize the movement to spread the word about the issue in town squares, churches and local governments, and among businesses.