BY STACI WILSON
“One life lost is too many,” Sheriff Lance Benedict said at Friday’s Candlelight Vigil for Suicide Awareness as he welcomed people to the event in Midtown Park in New Milford.
“It’s about listening, and it’s caring,” he said to the small group that gathered at the park. “Together we can make a difference. It’s a group effort. We care about the community, that’s why we’re here tonight.”
Paul Wetherill, 28, a Certified Recovery Specialist with Trehab, spoke about his personal journey, noting many know about his professional life and his personal life as a friend, soon-to-be-husband, and dog owner. But many, he said, did not know he is also a person in recovery, an overdose survivor and a suicide attempt survivor.
“I don’t get to say that often,” Wetherill said. “It’s emotional for me.”
He said he had been on “both sides of the table” as the bullied and bully; the abused and the abuser; and “from trying to end my life to help people bring themselves out of the darkness.”
In his life, Wetherill said he has discovered two absolute truths: “Where there is breath, there is hope and where there is life, there is purpose.”
“I am an example of those two truths,” he said.
He remembered reaching points so low he believed the only way out was to take his own life but learned, “I’m not alone. As alone as I may feel, I am not alone.”
“It’s okay to be afraid,” he said. “That means you’re about to do something terribly brave,” he said as he advocated to those struggling through depression and mental health difficulties to reach out for help.
Katrena Chrysler has been struggling with depression since she was 13 years old. After giving birth to her first child at age 18, she said she found the will to live.
Chrysler described years of struggling with depression and turning to alcohol, as she bravely detailed her life at the vigil.
It was the suicide of a family member in 2011 that served as the impetus for her to seek help, but not until years after.
“In 2015 I started to deal with the grief,” she said about the time she acknowledged she needed help. Chrysler said she was first hospitalized in 2016 –the first of seven.
In January 2017, she attempted to take her own life with pills. “I couldn’t get out of my dark spot,” she said.
Chrysler admitted to feeling angry when she came to. “For days – months – I was mad I did not succeed.”
“I deal with suicidal thoughts every day,” she said. “I’m in this fight for the rest of my life.”
Chrysler told people to check on friends, offer smiles and kind words to strangers, and that could save a life. “You don’t know,” she said.
Jason Clapper, pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Montrose, also served on the Suicide Awareness Initiative and is a current member of the county’s Substance Abuse Recovery Initiative. “This disease affects us all,” he said.
“The suicide rate in our county is at least twice the national average,” he said, noting the SAI report that said people in the rural area don’t feel connected, often lack transportation and resources.
He spoke of growing up in poverty in the Susquehanna area, and meeting a person who profoundly impacted his life who taught him, “No matter who you are, or where you come from, you have a purpose,” he said of the life lesson.
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK