In January of 2001, four days after attempting to end her life, a twenty-seven year old mother of two wrote the following. “When you start the New Year the way I have, there seems to be nowhere to go but up. Never would I have imagined finding myself at this juncture. I’m without answer to one question; at what point did I begin to lose touch with myself in such a way that I could consider death a suitable solution?” These are the words taken from the personal journal of Deeatra Kajfosz, founding Executive Director of LiFE OF HOPE. They were written from within the walls of St. Joseph’s Hospital Mental Health Ward. As a statistic, she was one of 46 Washington County suicide attempts who were hospitalized that year (Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Self-Inflicted Injury-Related Hospitalization, 2014). In 2012, eleven years after her attempt, ninety members of our community were admitted as a result of a failed attempt to end their life. The sad truth is, statistics indicate that the numbers are not going down.
Suicide. The topic itself raises many emotions, opinions, and difficult questions. It has been said that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. For those affected by a suicide attempt or death, the financial and emotional hardships are substantial and can be felt deeply across generational, racial, and social demographics. The reality is, Washington County is not immune to the realities of suicide attempts and deaths. A simple query on the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (2014) website reveals that from 2008 through 2012, there were 27,733 self-inflicted injury-related hospitalizations in Wisconsin. Of those, 465 were within Washington County. Further query exposes that in that same five year period, 3,724 Wisconsin lives ended in suicide with 82 of them from right here in Washington County (WDHS, Suicide-Related Mortality, 2014). These figures on their own are startling, but we cannot forget that those 82 were husbands, wives, children, parents, neighbors, co-workers, and friends within our municipality.
After having lost a professional colleague / personal friend to suicide in June, 2014, Kajfosz set out to break the silence on her own attempt and develop a comprehensive, suicide awareness and prevention proposal in an effort to reduce the number of suicide attempts and deaths within Washington County. That proposal serves as the foundation to the LiFE OF HOPE mission. To read the entire original proposal, click HERE.