Westchester County Recognizes Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month
This September, Westchester County is recognizing National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month with a butterfly display at the Healing Garden at Ridge Road Park. The Healing Garden, which was officially unveiled during Mental Health Awareness Month this May, was created to provide a permanent place for reflection for family members and loved ones of those who died by suicide. The butterfly display is intended to represent the butterfly effect, and the notion that by making small changes in behavior, those that may be contemplating suicide can make a different choice, resulting in a better, healthier outcome. One butterfly has been placed at the Healing Garden for every Westchester County resident who died by suicide over the past year. In 2022, 79 residents died by suicide.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer said: “Every September, it is important that we come together as one community to help stop the stigma associated with suicide and mental illness. We need people who are struggling to know that there are resources and services available to them, if they need help. The butterfly has been chosen as a symbol for people affected by mental illness, and represents an individuals’ ability to reach new heights. We encourage people to use this garden to help them heal, and remember happy memories of their loved ones while they are here.”
Westchester County Commissioner of the Department of Community Mental Health Michael Orth said: “The Healing Garden is more than just a place to reflect, but a place to honor loved ones. As we recognize National Suicide Awareness Month, we as a Department and as a County want to encourage people experiencing life challenges to seek assistance. The 988 Call Center has helped thousands of Westchester residents since its inception a year ago. As a community, we must work to end the stigma that surrounds mental health and reassure those in need to know that help is out there.”
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Hudson Valley/Westchester Chapter Director Maria Idoni said: “September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – Hudson Valley/Westchester Chapter wanted to bring awareness to the 79 deaths by suicide in our county, last year. Each butterfly in our garden represents one life lost to suicide in our county. Seeing 79 beautiful butterflies together is also a reminder that each of us transforms. The butterflies symbolically represent hope and new beginnings. There is always hope.”
Executive Director of NAMI Westchester, Inc. Marie Considine said: “NAMI Westchester marks Suicide Prevention Awareness Month by honoring the memory of those who lost their struggle with mental health, as well as by supporting, advocating and educating community members to prevent suicide. NAMI Westchester is dedicated to the development of the Westchester Healing Garden at Ridge Road Park, a nature sanctuary to reflect and remember loved ones, working in partnership with Westchester Dept. of Community Mental Health and other local organizations to prevent suicide in our County.”
Westchester County Director of Research and Survivor of Suicide Ellen Hendrickx said: “Suicide is devastating for all those who are touched by it. We have come some distance in eradicating the stigma associated with mental illness and suicide, but we have a long way to go. A month dedicated to Suicide Prevention and Awareness is most certainly a start. Most importantly for those who are feeling desperate, there is someone waiting for your call. Just dial 988 any time, day or night. For those of us whose loved ones are no longer with us, the Healing Garden is a place of sanctuary and peace. While we can’t bring our family members and friends back, this small corner in this beautiful park can give us respite.”
The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline offers 24/7 call, text and chat access to trained crisis counselors who can help people experiencing suicidal, substance use and/or mental health crisis, or any other type of mental distress. For more information about the Department of Community Mental Health, their programs and services, call 914-995-5220.