Putting a stop to the stigma of suicide, mental illness

‘Stop the Stigma’ suicide awareness event set for Feb. 13 at Forest Lake High School; comic, mental health activist also plans stops at North Branch, Chisago Lakes high schools—

Alissa Haines suffered in silence.

She was beautiful. She was an incredible person, a great big sister and a loved daughter. Everything seemed fine with the 15-year-old from Wyoming, Minn., and there were no signs of distress.

Alissa Haines was lost to suicide on Dec. 29, 2011. Photos supplied

Alissa Haines was lost to suicide on Dec. 29, 2011. Photos supplied

For reasons still unknown, Alissa took her own life on Dec. 29, 2011, and her father is reaching out to anyone and everyone who will hear his message on stopping the stigma associated with suicide and mental health issues.

That message is part of the mission behind Stomp Out Suicide, a local nonprofit organization that Sean and Katie Haines founded out of love and hope in memory of their daughter Alissa. The goal: to educate and boost discussion about suicide prevention through public awareness and community outreach.

Stomp Out Suicide, in partnership with the Forest Lake Area Partnership for Families, welcomes nationally known comic and mental health activist Kevin Breel to Forest Lake Area High School for a “Stop the Stigma” event on Thursday, Feb. 13. Starting with a resource fair at 5:30 p.m. and concluding after a talk by Breel that begins at 7 p.m., the public event aims to raise awareness of mental health, depression and suicide prevention.

The event was made possible due to the generous donations raised at Stomp Out Suicide’s second annual Alissa M. Haines 5K Race for Awareness, which was held Aug. 24, 2013, in Wyoming. Nearly 900 people attended the family-friendly event, which raised over $48,000.

Alissa with her parents, Sean and Katie Haines, and her younger brother, Jake.

Alissa with her parents, Sean and Katie Haines, and her younger brother, Jake.

And it’s these 5K run/walk fundraising events and donations that allow Stomp Out Suicide to help local communities implement mental health awareness programs and sponsor events.

“The more we can keep the message in front of people, the better the odds that we may be able to get someone the help they need,” Sean Haines said.

Event details

Organized by the Forest Lake Area Partnership for Families, the resource fair will showcase a variety of mental health, social service, recreational and other organizations that share the common goal of promoting health and well-being. Serving the Forest Lake School District communities, FLAPF’s mission is to promote health and well-being for youth and families.

Stomp Out Suicide also will sell its new line of T-shirts featuring inspirational quotes at the event.

Guests are welcome to enjoy free pizza and refreshments, while they last, courtesy of Canvas Health. The resource fair concludes at 6:45 p.m.

Kevin Breel combines comedy with an honest conversation about mental health in his presentations. He will speak to students at North Branch and Chisago Lakes high schools before appearing for an open event Feb. 13 at Forest Lake High School.

Kevin Breel combines comedy with an honest conversation about mental health in his presentations. He will speak to students at North Branch and Chisago Lakes high schools before appearing for an open event Feb. 13 at Forest Lake High School.

At 7 p.m., guests are invited into the auditorium for a performance by Breel, who combines comedy with an honest and hopeful conversation about mental health. He has been featured on Good Morning America, MTV and TED Talks, and he recently did a show at the House of Blues.

“We are very excited about getting Kevin to come here in Minnesota and be able to allow people to come in and see him for free,” Haines said.

Stomp Out Suicide and FLAPF also are proud to bring Breel to North Branch and Chisago Lakes high schools. Taking place during the school day on Feb. 13, these school symposiums are closed to the public, so students can enjoy a more intimate presentation from Breel.

Stomp Out Suicide seeks to educate

According to Stomp Out Suicide:

Suicide occurs most often in those who suffer from mental illnesses.

Depression is the most common mental illness, and it’s not just a bad mood or phase; it is a serious medical condition. In most cases depression and other mental illnesses can be treated, but the problem needs to be diagnosed by a professional.

Suicide can have lasting harmful effects on individuals, families and communities. While its causes are complex and determined by multiple factors, the goal of suicide prevention is to reduce factors that increase risk and increase factors that promote resilience.

One of the most important aspects of suicide prevention is support. The person who is struggling needs to know that you support and love him or her, and that you are willing to help them find hope in life again.

“Our goal at Stomp Out Suicide is to reach others like Alissa, and to prevent this tragedy from happening to people like her,” Haines said.

Those at Stomp Out Suicide point out they are not licensed professionals. They are real people with a passion for awareness.

If you or a loved one is considering suicide, Stomp Out Suicide encourages the following steps:

• Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255). This is a confidential source of help available 24/7 and staffed by a trained phone counselor.

• Go to the nearest hospital emergency room.

• Call 911 or the emergency number of your local police.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/StompOutSuicide, www.stompoutsuicide.com or twitter.com/sos5k.

up arrow