Original story by LINDA MCALPINE (West Bend Daily News)
Deeatra Kajfosz hopes to break the silence that surrounds the topic of suicide.
After losing a friend to suicide a little more than a year ago, Kajfosz said she started learning all she could about the topic.
She was astonished to find there is a list of risk factors and as she read them she realized that she had 80 percent of them at the time she made a suicide attempt more than a decade ago.
Kajfosz founded the nonprofit organization LiFE OF HOPE at the end of the year.
“My intention in forming LiFE OF HOPE is to take this knowledge and do something with it in our community,” Kajfosz said.
Risk factors include a family or personal history of mental disorder; a history of physical, sexual or mental abuse; feelings of hopelessness and lack of purpose; chronic pain or illness; and alcohol or drug addiction.
In 2001, Kajfosz became a statistic. She was one of 46 people hospitalized in Washington County that year after attempting suicide.
“In 2012, that number doubled to 90,” Kajfosz said. “How can we have all the resources that we do and yet the numbers are increasing? We need to break the silence and take down the stigma surrounding suicide and have compassion so that we can talk about it and what to do to try to prevent it.
“There’s a mom, a dad, a son or daughter who is out there in our community who is at the point where they are thinking that death may be a solution. We need to help them see that that does not need to be the end of their life story, that there is hope and help.”
Jeff Barger, LiFE OF HOPE board vice president, said while suicide is usually not a topic broached in conversations, he found when it was brought up, people have stories to tell.
“Most people have been impacted somehow or another, either through an attempt or death of a loved one, a friend or a business colleague,” Barger said.
His experience came when he found a friend attempting to take his life.
“My hope is to open up the lines of communication, especially with young people, that suicide is not a taboo subject,” Barger said. “Sometimes young people feel alone and they don’t want their parents to be disappointed in them so when they are having thoughts of suicide, they are afraid to talk to anyone about how they’re feeling. We very much need to change that.”
William Evans, a board member, said he remembers struggling to find resources to help a family member who attempted suicide.
“I wish I had had the information at that time that we have now,” Evans said. “One of our goals is to provide information through our community education forums, our peer-to-peer support groups, our youth education initiative and through mental health assistance.”
Kajfosz said the motto of LiFE OF HOPE is “one community, one family, one life at a time.”
“I think the community needs and wants this help and if it saves one life, it will be worth it,” Kajfosz said.
LiFE OF HOPE will work with other agencies and community groups to raise suicide awareness and prevention, Kajfosz said.
For more information about LiFE OF HOPE, visit LiFEOFHOPEproject.org.
If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors, call 800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with a counselor 24/7.
Reach reporter Linda McAlpine at firstname.lastname@example.org