By RALPH ANSAMI firstname.lastname@example.org IRONWOOD
— The quilts are becoming faded, but the faces they contain are fresh in many area residents’ minds. The Lifekeeper Faces of Suicide quilts were on display Saturday at Gogebic Community College for the fourth annual “Break the Silence Walk Through the Pain” event, sponsored by the Range Suicide Prevention Council. About 100 people attended and listened to Pat Gallinagh, of the RSPC, talk about how powerful the quilts, with more than 60 photographs, are to survivors. He explained the purpose of the event was to “tear down the shroud of shame” connected with suicide. “We are making progress,” Gallinagh assured the audience. It was sunny outside, in contrast to the blackness Amber Symons said she experienced after her brother, Corey Maslanka, committed suicide and she considered it, too. She said she struggled for six months with deep depression after her brother’s death before she decided to die at an intersection in Ironwood, but the blackness suddenly lifted that day and now she lives to discuss her battle. “I’m proud of people who are still fighting this battle today,” the Victim Services worker said. For Jennifer Geissler, of Marengo, Wis., it’s been one year since her husband committed suicide. She had been away for the weekend for a family gathering and when she returned home, she discovered her husband had moved out of the house, her son had been kicked by a horse and her daughter ended up in the hospital after passing out. That same day she said the grief became unbearable when her son found her husband dead in an apartment he had moved into when she was gone. “I didn’t know he was hurting that bad,” she said, talking in public for the first time about that day. “When I talked to him on the phone, he seemed fine.” She said the family previously realized her husband, Scott, was depressed, and he choose to treat it with alcohol, which only made matters worse and is never the answer. Geissler’s advice is to, “Reach out to them, if you think someone is having a problem. Everyone matters.” Even small acts of kindness from strangers can change lives, Geissler said. Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of her husband’s funeral. Jennifer Selin described her own struggles after she lost her father to suicide. She learned of his death when she heard a call over the scanner about a medical episode at a North Lake Street residence, realizing it was her house. Selin struggled with depression before turning her life around. Now a mother for the second time, Selin said, “Suicide can affect anyone’s life. Don’t think you’re immune.” After hearing the heartfelt stories from the three speakers, the people who attended the event at GCC offered hugs to them, then gathered for a walk around town. They wore SOS shirts, meaning Survivors of Suicide.