Two Friends Aid Suicide Prevention

By Hartman, Kari | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), August 3, 2003 | Go to article overview

Two Friends Aid Suicide Prevention


Hartman, Kari, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Kari Hartman Daily Herald Staff Writer

As a child, Michelle Linn-Gust had a pretty typical sibling relationship with her sister, Denise.

They invented games, drew pictures, roller-skated together in their basement.

And they fought. Michelle put tape across the rug of the room they shared to try to keep Denise on one side of it.

Denise, who was three years younger, often tagged along with Michelle and her friends, frustrating her big sister.

"I wanted my own identity," said Michelle Linn-Gust, a 1990 Naperville North graduate who now lives in New Mexico.

"When you're 10 years old, you don't know your sister's only going to be there for seven more years. You think she's going to be there forever."

But on March 18, 1993, Linn-Gust's life changed forever. That's the day Denise, just two weeks away from her 18th birthday, stepped in front of an approaching freight train to end her own life.

"Everything I had done with her I don't get to do with her anymore," Linn-Gust said. "Once she died, she took half my memories with her."

In the 10 years since Denise's death, Linn-Gust has struggled through the grief and the anger. She's spoken throughout the country, sharing her experience about coping with the suicide of a loved one, and addressing suicide prevention.

She wrote a book published in 2001 called "Do They Have Bad Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Sibling."

And now she and close friend Jennifer Timmons, who still lives in Naperville, are doing more to help grieving families and suicide prevention research.

The two friends have started The Inspire Collection, a set of jewelry. Timmons, who graduated from Naperville North in 1989, makes the pieces, which include wine charms, bracelets and necklaces. A portion of the proceeds supports suicide awareness and prevention.

Some of the proceeds initially will benefit the American Association of Suicidology and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Linn-Gust said. As the business grows, the two friends may aid additional suicide prevention organizations.

Timmons owns Jewels by JJ, a handcrafted jewelry company. She'd already been making and selling jewelry when she and Linn-Gust started talking about a collection to help suicide prevention.

Timmons makes the pieces out of her home. She'll work on a table, sometimes in front of the TV, before heading to bed at night. …

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