WELLSBURG - A local woman knows what it's like to lose a loved one to suicide and that one way to cope is to stay connected to others.
Judith Aracich Busacca, a social worker with experience in crisis intervention, is holding a candlelight vigil from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Nov. 11 on the Wellsburg Town Square for anyone with a family member or friend who has committed suicide.
"My son, Anthony, died by suicide 10 years ago on Nov. 6, 2002, while residing in Brooke County. I know firsthand the pain and sadness of losing a loved one in such a violent way," Busacca said.
She said studies have shown that for each suicide, at least six survivors experience depression and guilt and are at risk of committing suicide themselves or developing other psychological problems.
"Holding a candlelight vigil is a powerful way to illuminate the pain and sadness that family and friends experience when a loved one dies by suicide and to honor their memory. I would like to make this happen in some small way on a small scale for this initial vigil," Busacca said.
She welcomes those affected by suicide to bring photos of their loved ones, share stories, a poem or song close to their hearts, offer prayers or just listen.
Busacca will share information about help available to those coping with a suicide and signs families and friends may watch for to prevent a suicide.
Suicide is the 11th leading cause of overall deaths in the U.S. and the third leading cause of death for young Americans, ages 10-24, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the West Virginia Council for the Prevention of Suicide, West Virginia ranked seventh among all of the states in the incidence of suicides in 2007, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
She said it's a dramatic increase from 2006, when the state ranked 12th, with 312 reported suicides.
Busacca said there can be many factors leading to suicide, such as adults and youth involved in judicial or child welfare issues; suffering from medical problems; are gay, bisexual or transgender; in the military, facing midlife crises and those known as 'cutters' because they cut or otherwise deliberately injured themselves without the intention of killing themselves.
Busacca said drug and alcohol addiction also are common factors, with a growing number of area residents killing themselves because they are struggling to overcome addiction. That was the case for her son, who was 25 when he took his life, she said.
Signs that a person is contemplating suicide include acting agitated or anxious, demonstrating extreme mood swings, isolating themselves from family and friends, avoiding activities they once enjoyed, not taking care of themselves, eating more or less than usual, sleeping more and heavy use of alcohol or drugs.
Busacca said the families and friends of people who have lost a close loved one to suicide often aren't sure what to say or do. Because everyone copes with such a loss in different ways, there's not an easy answer, she said. But most of all they can keep the lines of communication open and be available for them, she said.
"Don't be afraid to talk about the person they lost because they still love them and have good memories of them," Busacca said.
She said for example, she always will remember her son for his kindness, particularly to those who weren't as fortunate as he, and ability to see past people's appearances to their personal qualities.
"A village of people, including family and clergy, helped me to find a place in my heart to put that pain and be able to live it," Busacca said.
"By holding the vigil I want to honor Tony's memory in some small way but also to offer some support to people who are suffering from the same pain," she said.