Candlelight vigil at Reservoir Park

A small group met for a candlelight vigil Sunday evening at Reservoir Park, remembering a loved one who recently took their own life.

Just last week, and again this week, and too many times in the past few years, the community has been saddened by the loss of those who have taken their own lives as they have barely begun. Friends, co-workers, classmates ask themselves why and wonder if there is something more they could have done, something they could have said to prevent such tragedy.

Hillside Community Pastor Randy Zitterbart spoke Sunday evening at Reservoir Park, sharing words of comfort as a small group gathered for a candlelight vigil to remember their friend, just 19, who took her own life last week.

Zitterbart told The Daily Herald Monday, “It’s nobody’s fault.” Sometimes, he said, the darkness is buried so deep and is so well hidden that there are no warning signs. Not all show obvious signs of depression or inner struggles.

Tyrone Area School District social worker Molly Rivera wrote in an e-mail to The Daily Herald that if some youths’ “inner most thoughts and beliefs were not so well disguised by them, by their presentations of confidence and accomplishments, this wouldn’t be so confounding.”

Tyrone Mayor Bill Latchford implored in a social media post Jan. 3, “Please check in on your friends, family, or even neighbors that may be feeling lost.” He said, “People are feeling desperate for being social again. Those who were not that social may be feeling more lonely than ever.”

An ever increasing challenge in identifying someone potentially at risk is that disturbing language is often used by teens and others with no suicidal thoughts. And those who are having suicidal thoughts may never express the language.

Rivera added, “There may be thoughts or what we refer to as ‘cognitions of suicide.’” Some of those include:

“Everyone is better off without me.”

“I’m no good and never will be.”

“Things will never get better.”

“I’m a failure and always will be.”

“What’s the point of going on, no one will ever love me.”

Rivera said, “How often do we hear young people lament and say those very words? Often enough, and yet they don’t take that act of furtherance to end their life.”

Some of the warning signs of suicide according to SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) are:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

These warning signs of suicide are indicators that a person may be in acute danger and may urgently need help.

More signs, some of which overlap, according to Rivera are:

  • Prior suicide attempt
  • Talking about suicide
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Making a plan to commit suicide
  • Pre-occupation with death
  • Feelings of depression, fear, hopelessness, and/or anxiety
  • Feelings of sadness that does not go away
  • Increase in drug and/or alcohol use
  • Irritability
  • Death in the family, divorce, abuse, or bullying may increase thoughts of suicide
  • Students who believe they are a burden on others or worry an excessive amount

Rivera said, “Beyond the warning signs, I believe we should be doing that deep dive when a person shares their thoughts and fears and concerns such as, ‘How profound is your feeling of hopelessness? How long have you been feeling like you will never succeed/that you will sabotage your best effort? Do you have hope? Are you thinking of killing yourself?’ And brace ourselves for what we don’t want to hear. Most family and friends feel inadequate to respond to those questions. They can’t easily put themselves in another’s shoes to even imagine what it feels like to experience relentless hopelessness. So they offer love, reassurance and support and anticipate that this will carry their loved one through, never realizing that their friend, daughter, son, mother is well beyond love and reassurance.”

The suicide prevention lifeline is always available for individuals having suicidal thoughts or for those who are concerned about another’s state of mind. The President recently signed the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act into law. 988, the new three-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, is to be completed by July 2022. In the meantime, the Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or by texting SIGNS to 741741 for 24/7, anonymous, free crisis counseling.

The bottom line seems to be that it is never wrong to reach out and try to help someone. While it may seem unnecessary or over the top, it is always best to reach out, to let those around you know they are not alone, to express concern, to listen. And if you have, and if it didn’t help, remember that sometimes, as Pastor Zitterbart said, the darkness runs too deep.

From what has happened too many times in the local community, suicide can come as a great shock, even to those closest to the victims. Reaching out, going over the top may be just what is needed. But again, it is difficult if the signs are well hidden and never shared.

Rivera concluded, “Calling the crisis hotline or accompanying a loved one to the hospital emergency room may be inconvenient or may appear to some family member to be overkill, but we live in a different world now and that effort may make all the difference.”

Julie White can be reached at


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