Forum in East Lyme raises awareness of, aims to prevent suicide
East Lyme — Sharing stories of loss, community members and speakers gathered Tuesday at a suicide prevention forum to encourage people to reach out for help - and to each other.
About 50 people attended the forum hosted by the East Lyme Youth Services Bureau and the Brian T. Dagle Memorial Foundation Inc.
The Dagle family started the foundation in memory of their son, Brian Dagle, a popular teenager and graduate of East Lyme High School who died by suicide in 2011. The foundation aims to provide outreach and healing for families and individuals coping with loss.
Ainsley Bryce, a graduate of East Lyme High and the University of Connecticut, shared her experience with losing her best friend, Brian Dagle.
She recounted meeting him at age 6, when their families moved to the same street. She went through many of her "firsts" with Dagle: her first day of school, first boy-girl party, proms and graduations, but also her first loss and experience with suicide.
"He had an electricity to him which drew people close to him, and I feel so very lucky to have experienced his love and support," she said of Dagle.
Bryce said her whole life shifted after Dagle's suicide, as she tried to fill the hole that was left behind. She felt a mix of emotions: loneliness, anger, gratitude to have met him and deep sadness.
Bryce said those survived by Dagle wish they could go back in time and tell him that he was not alone. But Bryce, who helped organize "Team Dagle" for the Out of the Darkness Suicide Prevention walk at UConn, said the survivors also have the opportunity to share his story in the hope of preventing more suicide deaths.
Dagle's father, Paul Dagle, said the foundation is helping to organize the events to communicate and reach out to others.
John Holt, a sports reporter and anchor at WFSB, Channel 3, shared his story of losing his 25-year-old brother to suicide in 1999 and what it means to be a "suicide survivor," a term used to describe those whose loved ones have committed suicide.
He said there continues to be a level of stigma attached to suicide and mental illness, and suicide prevention is "a cause that doesn't always draw the sympathy that other equally important causes do."
In addition to the state initiatives to address suicide, he said one of the most important things one can do is listen. He said listening can make a big difference to someone who is lonely or depressed, particularly in today's digital age.
"The power of listening to someone you may know - a classmate, a friend, a neighbor that clearly is in a difficult spot - can go a long way, I've found," he said.
Andrea Duarte, a licensed clinical social worker and co-chairwoman of the Connecticut Suicide Advisory Board, addressed myths of suicide and resources on the state level for preventing suicide. She said 100 Americans die by suicide each day, and nationally, the number of suicides has been creeping up since the downturn in the economy.
She said in Connecticut, suicides also rose since 2008 but seemed to have hit a peak two or three years ago. She said the state has not yet determined whether the decline from that peak is statistically significant.
First Selectman Paul Formica, who moderated the panel, acknowledged the topic's difficulty but stressed the importance of addressing suicide prevention.
For more information on the Connecticut Suicide Advisory Board's suicide prevention initiatives, visit www.preventsuicidect.org.
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