Nichele Darby knows counseling can be a taboo subject for some.
But Darby, who lost her son to suicide, knows it can be an important step to saving a life.
“Sometimes,” she said, “you want somebody who doesn’t know nothing about you to just vent to, and let it all out.”
Darby, of Schenectady, lost her son Devine Darby in October 2007. He was 18.
The mother, who has become an advocate for suicide prevention, was one of several people at an event Thursday evening aimed at preventing suicide, but also aimed at stopping violence.
A few dozen gathered at the State Street site of Quest, a youth advocacy program, to remember loved ones lost. Children drew pictures related to lost loved ones. The event also included school and education officials.
Darby cited the timing of the event, just before the holidays, as they tried to spread awareness of the problems.
The holidays, she noted, can be tough for families who have lost loved ones to suicide or violence. They can also be tough for those going through troubles.
Violence has been at the forefront of late, with shootings and killings in the city.
“We haven’t had too many suicides lately,” mother Lisa Seymour said, “but the violence is increasing.”
Both must be stopped, she said.
The first part of Seymour’s statement she credits in large part to her daughter, and the community response to her and other deaths.
Seymour’s daughter Cherelle Clarke — Devine Darby’s cousin — killed herself in April 2009 at the age of 14.
Cherelle, who had been the victim of bullying, was the last of a string of suicides by teenage girls in Schenectady, suicides linked to bullying and attacks from a group called the Four Block Gang.
The school district called in national suicide specialists. Local doctors and counselors mobilized, searching for signs of suicide among their patients. Those signs can include hopelessness, isolation and changes in sleeping or eating patterns, among others.
Seymour knows those signs now. She urged anyone who sees them to tell someone. If a teen tells a friend they have thoughts of suicide, the friend should tell an adult.
“It’s not a joke when someone says ‘I feel suicidal’ anymore,” Seymour said, “because you never know.”
Also among those attending was Laura Combs, supervisor of prevention with Capital Region BOCES. Combs has worked with Darby to get the word out about suicide prevention. Darby has worked health fairs and is available to speak to classes.
“The important thing is not to be afraid to do something about it,” Combs said, adding a short time later, “It’s just not something that can be kept secret. It’s really important that it gets talked about and followed up on.”