Evelyn Wald called herself a “seasoned suicide survivor” after her mother, Evelyn Jacobson, committed suicide 37 years ago.
The incident happened in the 1970s, when grief counseling services were limited.
“I found myself feeling alone,” Wald said. “My family wasn’t a source of comfort. For that period of time, I felt like I was grabbing onto anything I could because it was better than nothing.”
On Wednesday night, she was one of nearly 100 people who gathered at Millbrook Marsh Nature Center for the second annual Centre County Suicide and Prevention Awareness Day.
The Jana Marie Foundation hosted An Evening of Hope, Healing and Remembrance event in conjunction with the Central Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Active Minds of Penn State.
The event included live music, discussions around art and writing as a way of expression, an art exhibit, a candlelight vigil and more. Artist Mel Forkner Lesher, playwright Pam Monk and musician Zack Maser were among the various artists.
The Jana Marie Foundation was founded by Marisa Vicere Brown after her sister, Jana, committed suicide about three years ago. It’s a way to help keep her sister’s memory alive, to spread awareness and outreach for suicide prevention, and to help empower young people to make positive life choices, Brown said.
The foundation also works to help individuals by promoting creative expression that can work as a means of self-expression.
“The arts can help heal,” Monk said. “It can express what’s cooped up inside. … (I) use writing to keep my sense of self together.”
At 8 p.m. the attendees gathered for a worldwide candlelight vigil and moment of remembrance. With a candle in hand, Marianne Clark wiped away a tear that rolled down her cheek. She then put the candle in a blue bag that said “life is precious” and placed it on the walkway near the nature center.
The Lemont resident said she recently suffered from depression that almost led to taking her own life, but with a good support system, found a new light in her life.
“I was saved,” she said. “I was given a second chance. It’s just my way to remember those we couldn’t save.”
Suicide survivors, and families affected by an incident shared their stories with the public in hopes of helping others.
Brown said suicide take lives by the minute. About 15 suicides are reported in Centre County annually, she said.
“It’s a taboo subject and it’s something that’s hard to process, but you’re not alone,” Wald said. “People should know that it’s something that’s preventable and that there are safe places to talk about this issue. We can journey together in this.”
Wald turned 62 this year — the same age her mother committed suicide. And it put life into perspective.
“I just think that this was her — that at this age, she was past the point of no return,” Wald said. “But it’s not me. I’m a lover of life and embracer of life.”