Some central New Yorkers are taking a Stand Against Suicide. An Elbridge-based organization is trying to raise awareness about the risks of mental illness that can sometimes lead to suicide.
Tara Kinsella Dennee's father shot himself to death four years ago. She says he'd suffered from bipolar disorder for years.
"He worked at Camillus Cutlery for 29 years. He was able to treat his illness with medication and counseling, and when the cutlery closed he lost his insurance and was unable to get treatment any longer," Dennee said. "Things slowly unraveled, and he got to the bottom and took his own life."
Dennee says before his suicide, he'd been in and out of mental health wards while dealing with the highs and lows of bi-polar disorder.
"He'd level off and he'd get better. Then he'd think, 'I'm better now. Things are great,' and go off his meds and the cycle would start again," Dennee said. "I don't know what the last straw was - I really don't."
But this isn't just a story about Dennee's father. Dennee herself spent time in a psych unit after months of debilitating panic attacks that just kept getting worse, following the death of her father.
"I tried to just deal with it. And it wasn't working. I was missing work. I got to the point where I wasn't leaving the house," Dennee says. "I had horrible panic attacks, and I ended up putting myself in the psychiatric unit at Upstate (Hospital) for 11 days, because I was also suicidal."
She says part of her problem was simply not coming to grips with her father's suicide.
"I lived in shock for three years and I didn't deal with it at all. I just kind of kept going like nothing had happened," Dennee said. "There were nights that I cried but then three years in - I don't know how to say it but - I lost my mind. It all came crumbing down."
Dennee's illness is under control now with the help of therapy and medication. It's finding herself on both sides of suicide that has brought her to start the group, Stand Against Suicide.
Stand Against Suicide offers support groups for people who are suffering from mental illness, and it also reaches out to grieving families, who find dealing with death through suicide challenging.
One of the things Dennee experienced was the stigma of suicide after her father died.
"Everyone was there at first, because someone calls and says, 'Tara's dad passed away.' My friends showed up. But after that, I remember being in the local grocery store, and I'd see someone at the end of an aisle and they would turn quick and walk away. I was avoided by everyone, nobody knew what to say," said Dennee.
The other point of the group is to emphasize the facts. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 18 and 65 in this country and half of those deaths involve people suffering from a major depression. It's a disease that many don't understand.
"It's kind of like if you have a table and every day you put a brick on a table, and every day you put one more brick on the table," Dennee said. "Eventually that table is going to break if you don't put some more help underneath it -- some more support ."
Dennee says the important thing about mental illness, is that people need to know it is treatable through medication and therapy. It worked for her.
"My daughter now says, 'Mommy, it sucked when you were gone for 11 days, but I'm so happy you went because now you smile again.'"
Stand Against Suicide is holding a Community Walk this weekend along Syracuse's Creekwalk to raise money for the organization. For more information, visit their website StandAgainstSuicide.org