City confronts suicide

Proclaims suicide prevention week

By: Robert Guttersohn | Royal Oak Review | Published September 18, 2013

ROYAL OAK — The Sept. 9 City Commission began on a somber note as the first 15 minutes of the meeting dealt with suicide, its prevention and an upcoming town hall meeting that organizers hope will empower people.

The City Commission proclaimed Sept. 8-14 Suicide Prevention Week in honor of the city’s anti-suicide task force, Royal Oak Suicide Awareness For Everyone (SAFE).

Mayor Jim Ellison, while reading the proclamation, listed a series of statistics that acted as a reminder of why such a week is needed: Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24 years old, the 10th-leading cause of all deaths, and more figures from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The mayor presented the proclamation just days ahead of Royal Oak SAFE hosting its first event at the Royal Oak Middle School auditorium at 6 p.m. Sept. 25.

The City Commission approved the creation of Royal Oak SAFE earlier this year after a spate of suicides at a local gun range.

Julie Farhat, the founder of the Mind Over Matter 5k run/walk and a task force member, said at the meeting that SAFE is made up of both city and school officials, law enforcement, nonprofit organizations and other community leaders.

“We have put a lot of thought into how to connect with at-risk populations here in Royal Oak and supply them with both educational information and hope,” she said.

SAFE is calling the Sept. 25 event an “Evening of Empowerment.”

It will feature a panel of both experts and survivors — those who, like Farhat, were left behind by someone who committed suicide.

Farhat’s mother, who had struggled with mental illness, killed herself in 2005.

“At the time, it seemed like no one was talking about suicide,” Farhat said. “So my siblings and I formed Mind Over Matter — lovingly referred to as MOM — to honor my mother and to help save lives.”

Farhat also used the opportunity to announce that her annual run in May raised $30,000 this year for three organizations: Common Ground, the University of Michigan Depression Center and KnowResolve.

“These funds will help us reach out to an average of 1,500 students every month — middle school, high school students and college students” said Dennis Liegghio, the president and founder of KnowResolve.

Jessica Stanichuck, from the Depression Center and who will also be part of a panel at the SAFE event, said the money will be used to further research.

“Our researchers will be able to do lots of innovative treatment and look at new ways for treatment of schizophrenia and depression,” she said.

Ellison commended Farhat’s work.

“I’ve watched this thing grow from its infancy with you, and I’ll be out there again next year,” Ellison said.