Experts, musicians and survivors joined to discuss experiences with suicide and ways to prevent it Wednesday night.
Keep Hope Alive, a suicide awareness vigil, was held in Pugh Hall and featured a panel that addressed coping with suicide and helping others who struggle with mental health issues to about 40 people.
The panel featured Terrie Mullin, president of National Alliance on Mental Illness Gainesville; Mercedes Machado, a Counseling and Wellness Center intern; and psychologists Marshall Knudson and Jim Probert.
Knudson said there is no formula for talking to someone who is struggling, but it’s important to focus on helping people live rather than keeping them from dying.
Mullin said letting people know you care can make a big difference.
“Just being willing to say, ‘I will listen,’ is not a small thing,” she said.
Musicians Katie Hargrove and Zo Bernardeau both performed original songs.
Bernardeau, who identifies as neither male nor female, wrote their songs after their best friend, Traver Hecht-Fellella, committed suicide in 2013 at age 19. Bernardeau performed two songs they wrote in Hecht-Fellella’s room after his death.
Bernardeau told Hecht-Fellella’s story and said the LGBT community is not given enough support in today’s society.
“This was my way of holding space for these people,” Bernardeau said. “It’s intense for me to openly speak about this. It also feels healing, like it needed to happen.”
The event ended with a moment of silence. The crowd held 40 battery-powered tea lights, which Collin Vernay, AWARE coordinator and host of the event, said each represented the more than 1,000 annual victims of suicide.
[A version of this story ran on page 6 on 2/12/2015 under the headline “Suicide awareness vigil focuses on how to help"]
Zo Bernardeau performs "Gravity," a song Bernardeau wrote after Bernardeau’s best friend's suicide in 2013.