The 16th Annual Clermont County Candlelight Vigil was held on September 13th. The people of Clermont County who have lost someone they love to suicide stood together underneath a shelter at Veterans Memorial Park as “West Clermont By Request” serenaded them, while candles were lit in remembrance of those who have committed suicide in the county. Although the weather was dreary, the people of Clermont County were bright with hope and love.
At this vigil was a UC Clermont student honoring her grandmother who committed suicide. She mentioned that her grandmother was a writer, and that influenced her to be a writer as well. However, this particular student isn’t the only one at UC Clermont who has been affected by suicide. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death overall, and one person kills him/herself every 12 minutes. Fifty-five percent of Americans are affected by suicide in some way, but there is a stigma around suicide, making it hard to openly talk about it. However, Dr. Lee Ann Watson makes sure that events like this allow people in Clermont County to honor the people in their lives that have committed suicide, and to openly talk about their experiences.
Dr. Watson is the Associate Director of the Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board. This board is in charge of handling mental health issues, and suicide is one particular issue she focuses on intently. Dr. Watson believes that education can be a driving force in helping to prevent suicide. She also discussed how suicide is prevalent in young adults and how the board is making plans to reach out to campuses like UC Clermont. Watson herself has been affected by this tragedy; her grandmother commit suicide in 1993, so she can truly relate to those who attended the vigil. Her experiences with mental health inspired her to pursue a career in the area, allowing her to truly understand every perspective in situations involving mental health.
Karen Scherra, the Executive Director of the Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board, attended the vigil as well and explained that the event is incredibly meaningful to the community. Clermont County Commissioner Ed Humphrey announced at the vigil that September 10th to September 16th is the dedicated Suicide Awareness Week in Clermont County. Humphrey listed the many statistics pointing to the fact that suicide is growing at a disturbing rate, and education can be a key to stem this escalating tragedy. Child Focus Inc. was also on site to provide and promote assistance.
“West Clermont By Request” was also in attendance. This group is the acapella choir from the newly-built West Clermont High School. The choir not only sings at school events but is very involved in the community and willing to sing at public events like these. Still, the Clermont County Candlelight Vigil is an event that is very personal to many of them. One singer said that this particular event was “close to all of our hearts.” In March of 2016, sixteen-year-old Anthony Iori committed suicide. Iori was a student athlete at Glen Este High School and his passing still resonates with his peers. Although the song isn’t specifically about suicide, the choir sang from their hearts in hopes that it’ll spread a message of awareness. Knowing the outward signs of someone with suicidal or depressed thoughts can potentially save someone’s life.
The choir sang “Heroes” by Alesso, an empowering song about how everyday people can be heroes. As the choir sang, candles were lit for every person in Clermont County who has committed suicide from September 2016 to today, as well as others who were mentioned by those who attended. The weather was very cold and rainy, but the wind did not blow out the candles that were lit. At the end of the candlelight vigil, those who love someone who has committed suicide retrieved a balloon and gathered in the parking lot at Veterans Memorial Park. “West Clermont By Request” sang “Bridge Under Troubled Water” from Simon and Garfunkel as the group released the balloons. The bright blue balloons colored the gray sky as Clermont County mourned those who chose to take their own lives.
“When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all (all)
I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down”
– Bridge Under Troubled Water, Simon and Garfunkel
If you have or had suicidal thoughts, we encourage you to please contact 528-SAVE (Clermont County Crisis Hotline), or go online to www.ccmhrb.com, or visit Child Focus Inc.