By Kiristina Houck, Del Mar Times
Although September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a local mother and daughter raise awareness and help promote resources to prevent suicide all year long.
“It’s an important cause for anyone and everyone because nobody is immune to being touched by suicide,” said Terri Wyatt, a longtime resident of Solana Beach.
It’s been more than five years since Terri Wyatt lost her son to suicide. Preston Grover was 23 when he took his life in June 2011.
Since their tragedy, Wyatt and her daughter, Kelsey Grover, have spent time educating the public about suicide, in an effort to prevent others from losing a loved one to suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 41,000 people in the United States die by suicide each year.
Wyatt and Grover have been safeTALK instructors for the past year. safeTALK is a three-hour program that prepares anyone over the age of 15 to become a suicide-alert helper.
Program participants learn to identify people who may have suicidal thoughts, ask them directly about the possibility of suicide, and connect them to lifesaving resources. The “safe” of safeTALK stands for “suicide alertness for everyone,” while “talk” stands for the actions that one does to help those with thoughts of suicide: tell, ask, listen, and keep safe.
“It was something that we always wanted to do together because it just means a lot to us,” said Wyatt, who has been a nurse for 37 years, spending 27 years at Sharp Memorial Hospital. “It has helped our healing.”
Wyatt and Grover have provided safeTALK classes to different organizations and consistently teach classes every couple of months at Sharp Memorial Hospital.
“One thing we learned in losing my brother is the stigma around suicide,” she added. “People really are not comfortable talking about it and they are not comfortable asking about it. This course engages people and helps them feel comfortable.”
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention put the mother-daughter duo through the training to become safeTALK instructors and continues to sponsor their classes in the community.
Following the death of their son and brother, Wyatt and Grover first became involved with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention through its Out of the Darkness Walk in San Diego. The family participated in their first walk just months after Preston’s death.
“I found something for my own healing and encouraged my family to get involved,” Grover said.
“It’s been really important for us to help give back because going through the loss of a sibling or a son is something that’s extremely difficult,” she added. “We want to be able to prevent as many suicides as possible.”
Since their first walk in 2011, Wyatt and Grover have become very involved with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
They both became safeTALK instructors, and now, Wyatt serves on the board of directors for the San Diego Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a national nonprofit dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide.
They both also participate in the nonprofit’s San Diego walk every year. The Out of the Darkness Walk is the organization’s signature fundraising event, bringing together family, friends and supporters in nearly 350 communities nationwide.
A total of 2,179 walkers participated in the San Diego walk last year, raising $141,000 for research, education, advocacy, outreach and support.
“We want to educate the public as much as possible and remove the stigma around suicide,” Grover said.
This year’s walk takes place Saturday, Oct. 22 at NTC Park at Liberty Station, located at 2600 Cushing Road in San Diego. The San Diego chapter expects 2,500 walkers this year and hopes to raise $170,000.
“It’s a very powerful and moving experience,” Wyatt said. “If you’ve lost someone, there’s support and resources. If you’re struggling, we have a lot of organizations there to offer support. It’s a very supportive and healing environment.”