RALEIGH – A successful inaugural event has organizers of a suicide and grief awareness festival hoping that they can educate the public on this issue.
Jessica Rivera of JRV Consulting in Raleigh is a grief and loss life coach. She worked to bring the Shine a Light Family Day Festival to the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh on September 9th.
“It is something that we are seeing more with younger and younger kids,” Rivera said. She said that suicidal attempts and suicides are increasing in both teens and younger children. Rivera puts much of the blame on access to social media because children are unable to escape scathing comments and bullying that comes their way.
Some of those children like Alex Rhoades of Raleigh, have clinically diagnosed health conditions. "I have a lot of diagnoses," Rhoades explained. "I have EDS, or Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. It makes my joints hurt and pop out of place a lot. I also have some GI tract issues that aren't really diagnosed yet. And then all of that led to me being depressed."
The goal of the event, which drew several hundred people, was to let people know that they should be cognizant of suicidal ideation in their children, Rivera said.
“Grief isn't only about the loss of life,” Rivera said. “Instead grief can be from a major life event, from bullying, or from losing friends as children hit adolescence.”
Rivera suggested that parents keep a close eye on what is going on with their children's lives and that they seek out services from professionals if they notice their children withdrawing from family or friends or activities that they previously enjoyed.
"I did talk to my mom when I felt suicidal," Rhoades explained. "She talked to me and then got help for me so that I take medication and work on trying to handle my problems."
“When [my business gets] those calls,” Rivera said, “we try to work with the family to address whatever is going on. Sometimes we have found that children are unable to tell their parents about their concerns, but they will open up to someone else in a safe supportive environment.”
Rivera said that the idea for the festival came because of an increase in the number of calls that her service received about suicide related issues.
Rivera is hoping that through events like Shine a Light Family Fun Day, she can help to remove the stigma of talking about this important issue from her local community.
I'm a recovering journalist now living a Renaissance life working as a writer & political strategist. I also am the mom to 2 children, one of whom has autonomic dysfunction & Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder, I write about politics and healthcare in North Carolina.