After a North Barrington woman took her life last month, the topic of suicide once again has come up in conversation in the Barrington community.
Maria A. Carlsen’s death is the sixth suicide in the area in the past four years. Many of those deaths were Barrington 220 School District students, which created a sense of panic and distress around town.
After the fourth suicide in about a year-and-a-half timeframe, a group of concerned students, community members and school district employees formed a group called HERE in Barrington to help those battling depression and other mental health issues.
“The kids were freaking out, the parents were freaking out, the community was freaking out, and HERE was really formed on the initiative of some students who went to (Barrington High School Principal) Steve McWilliams and said, ‘What can we do?’ And it took Steve and Tom Leonard saying this is beyond us, this is going to take everybody,” said the Rev. Don Wink of the Barrington Area Ministerial Association.
Fortunately, Barrington hasn’t lost a teenager to suicide since 2010, but the coalition’s work is far from over.
“The sense of urgency as a community is largely waning,” Wink said. “And yet since we are all connected to the kids and to life, we know that the factors that feed into that are every bit as present today as they were three and four years ago.”
Factors like warmer weather can cause an uptick in suicide attempts, prompting the HERE coalition to be on the lookout for teens and others displaying any warning signs.
“I feel like we’re holding our breath,” said Debbie Villers of Barrington 220 School District.
Jennifer West, a social worker with Good Shepherd Hospital, said suicide attempts still plague the community. She sees at least five people a day in the emergency room who have attempted to take their lives.
HERE in Barrington’s mission is still to provide help, encouragement, resources and education to promote positive mental health, although the focus has shifted to more preventative work.
“Preventative work is not as exciting as response work, but if we don’t have to respond it’s way better,” Wink said.
With teenagers, prevention often starts at home. Wink and the HERE team are working on developing a crisis response plan of action for adults who have concerns about their children.
“Now we’re kind of in this place where how can we help adults, many of whom don’t even know that they need help. I don’t mean with their own mental health, but as far as trying to reduce the factors contributing to young people acting on or considering suicidal thoughts,” Wink said.
If you are concerned about suicidal thoughts in your child, friend, or family member, hear from Barrington Youth and Family Services about warning signs for which to watch.
If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
To learn more about HERE in Barrington and to join in on the conversation, visit HERE in Barrington’s website.