Last Sunday’s front-page report on suicides was an important piece of journalism for the communities of North Central Washington.
As reporter K.C. Mehaffey noted in the compelling stories she wrote on the subject, the suicide rate in this area is disturbingly high. It is heartening to see that local organizations are working together to stop the epidemic.
Mehaffey focused on three mothers who had lost sons to suicide. For those of us who have not been directly touched by that kind of tragedy, it’s a perplexing and confounding problem. Reading the stories of Malinda Morelos, Julie Zielinski and Danni Everson helped us better understand the impacts of suicide.
To follow up on the Mehaffey’s work, I had a video interview with psychologist Terra Rea of Columbia Valley Community Health, which can be seen on our website (wenatcheeworld.com). I also interviewed Everson and Zielinski to hear their responses.
Zielinski, a long-time high school tennis coach lost her 27-year-old son Matthew in 2005 to suicide. Her recently completed book that she hopes saves lives will be in bookstores this fall.
She said community members have been very supportive since the article appeared. Understanding why people choose to commit suicide is difficult for those left behind. “People who take their own lives don’t realize who they’re hurting — family members, friends and coworkers,” she said.
Everson echoed the same sentiments.
“I personally know several families that have lost a loved one to suicide and each story is very different, but in every instance we ask ourselves what we could have done to prevent it,” she wrote in an email.
Following Matthew Zielinski’s death, many people came forward to tell Julie and her husband Ron how much their son meant to them. As a law enforcement officer, Matthew Zielinski had personally intervened in similar situations and prevented others from taking their own lives. “He was such a strong person but he couldn’t save himself,” his mother said.
There’s a belief among some people that those who commit suicide are acting out of selfishness. When people express this sentiment, it angers Zielinski. “People don’t understand how cruel their words can be,” she said.
“I understand why (Matthew) did it,” she added. “He, in a split second, snapped …. his heart was crushed.”
But she’s never been angry with her son for what he did.
For those left behind, the pain never really goes away. Zielinski finally found that she needed to write the story down and hopes that her book will help others identify warning signs of suicide and summon help.
She also worries about the pressures being put on kids these days, from parents pushing their kids to achieve to the cyber bullying of classmates who use text messages and social media to ridicule and ostracize others.
Having a Suicide Prevention Coalition is an important step forward for our community. “An important key to preventing suicide is talking about it,” Everson wrote.
It’s a conversation that needs to continue.
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