Putnam concert raises awareness about suicide prevention

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Putnam - posted Mon., Jun. 10, 2013
Members of the group Santa Mamba perform for the crowd at Rotary Park. Photos by D. Coffey.
Members of the group Santa Mamba perform for the crowd at Rotary Park. Photos by D. Coffey.

Putnam's Rotary Park was a study in contrasts on June 8 for the seventh annual Particle Accelerator concert. On stage, one band after another belted out songs for an audience that spread from the river to Kennedy Drive. But the backdrop to the music and revelry was a collection of poster boards covered with the photographs and names of those lost to suicide. Those faces were a reminder of the purpose behind the concert: to raise awareness about suicide, to honor loved ones lost, and to support United Services in their outreach to people in crisis.

The first Particle Accelerator concert was held in 2007, after 27-year-old Jack Young, Jr., died by suicide. Young's parents, Grace and Jack, Sr., wanted to honor his memory with music. They called the concert Particle Accelerator after the band their son played in. The Youngs hoped to persuade those considering suicide to think of alternatives. And they wanted to provide a drug- and alcohol-free event.

“We believe in music and civic engagement as an alternative to drugs and alcohol,” Grace said. “You can't drink and do drugs when you're depressed, because it makes your depression worse.”

For seven years, people have been turning out to help. Band members donate their time and talent. A network of relatives and friends man the booths, sell raffle tickets, paint faces and set up before and clean up after the concert. Local businesses donate goods and services for raffle items. “We've been overwhelmed by the generosity of everyone,” Grace Young said. “All these people come out every year, and the outpouring of support and love that this town has shown us is overwhelming.”

The Youngs aren't alone in dealing with the loss of a loved one to suicide. Approximately 38,000 suicides occur each year in the U.S.  According to the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, for each person who dies by suicide, five to 10 others are deeply affected by the loss. A stroll by the Wall of Angels, as the poster board creation is called, is proof. A daughter laments her mother gone too soon. A woman mourns her wonderful husband. A sibling remembers a baby brother.

Women as well as men grace the Wall of Angels. Yet while more women attempt suicide, men account for more than 75 percent of suicides in the U.S. It is the third leading cause of death for teens and young adults aged 15 to 24. And Latina girls aged 12 to 17 have the highest rate of suicide attempts of all adolescent ethnic groups.

United Services Manager of Communications and Development Laura Dunn said, “One in four will struggle with mental health issues in the United States.” Dunn was on hand to answer questions about the programs and services her agency offers. Demand for adult outpatient services at United Services has increased 214 percent since the recession hit, according to Dunn.

For their part, the Youngs have found some solace in the concert. The celebration of life and music has given them an outlet to focus on, at least temporarily. “It's actually helping my family heal,” Grace said.

“I wish we had thought of this beforehand. I wish we could have included Jack,” she said. Then she remembered her son and the others lost to suicide. “They are so loved. They are so missed,” she said.

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