Seminar Addresses Suicide Prevention
Pierce, Gala M., Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Gala M. Pierce Daily Herald Staff Writer
As the sun brightened the stained glass windows in Shannon Hall at the Eastside Community Center Saturday, Blanche Hays of Batavia identified the picture of her son, Eric Brooks Hays, on the "Faces of Suicide" quilt as the last picture taken of him.
Photographed on Thanksgiving Day 1987, her son was a junior at the University of Illinois and had been diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic that year, Hays told everyone in attendance at the third annual Survivors for Suicide Prevention Day.
"This was like being hit in the side of the head by a 2-by-4," said Hays, better known as Buzz. "I had no sense of what was going on with my son."
Though the family knew the holiday could not be typical because of Eric's diagnosis, they tried to carry on with a sense of normality by taking pictures.
She said her son had asked her, "What am I going to do with the rest of my life?"
After he took his own life on April 4, 1988, she asked herself the same question.
"I had to make my life count," Hays said.
She learned three things from her experience.
The first was to value today.
The second was to tell the most important people in your life that you love them.
"Three, to get out of myself and reach out to other people," Hays said. "Those of us who have made this journey can make a difference."
That is when she joined the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill - Kane County South.
Others who shared their personal tragedies - including Donna Larson of Batavia, who helped gather the pictures for the quilt - talked about the need to talk to others, finding support and not feeling shame. …