BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - In 1970, several suicides rocked the LSU campus. Seeing a need for help and intervention, a group of students worked to establish a hotline to provide a source of hope and support for students in crisis or considering suicide.
The work of those students is the foundation upon which the Baton Rouge Crisis Intervention Center (BRCIC) was built.
In the 50 years since, the BRCIC continued its mission to prevent and address suicide in the Capital Region and to provide support for loved ones left behind like Mark Wilson.
"It finally got to the point where he couldn’t bear it any longer and withdrew from the family, went to a motel room and ended his life,” Wilson said.
On the surface, the Wilsons looked like the all-American family. His dad, Harry, was a football star turned Navy Pilot who married his high school sweetheart.
“He was quite the big deal in Bogalusa in his early years,” he said.
Underneath, it was a different story.
"Alcoholism ravaged our family and that’s just how it was,” he said. “So we were under constant onslaught from alcoholism and all its impacts.”
The end of his dad’s life left Wilson and his family full of pain.
“For us as a family, it was an unimaginable traumatic experience,” he said. “We weren’t prepared for that. It was a bad ending to a bad situation, neither situation was acceptable, what was going on and this.”
While his story is his own, it is not necessarily unique. Quilts made up of pictures stitched together by other loved ones left behind by suicide hang along the walls of the BRCIC as a reminder that life is much more than just a punctuation mark.
"We are able to recognize and acknowledge those family members on the walls as the people they were, the loved ones they were, the souls they were, and the important people in the community they were, rather than stigmatize them, forget them,” said Frank Campbell, Chair of the National Suicidology Training Center, a program offered by the BRCIC.
Among the services offered today by the center is a support group for anyone who lost someone to suicide called Survivors of Suicide, or SOS. The support group and its resources allowed Wilson to grow and move forward past the loss of his father.
“He had found his life by ending his life, that is what he needed to do, that was what he believed was the best thing to serve his family and I don’t judge that anymore, I’m at ease with that because I don’t think that’s the end of anything,” Wilson said. “Life... relationships go on.”
While the SOS support group is the center’s longest running program, Campbell is also leading the charge on a new effort to help spread the mission of preventing suicide.
In 2018, the BRCIC formed the National Suicidology Training Center to more directly help communities reduce the impact of suicide by training local experts through collaborations with nationally recognized expert organizations. Led by Campbell, the NSTC provides specialized training to groups and individuals to address a wide variety of topics and issues related to suicide including postvention training, establishing support for survivors, and psychological autopsy certification training. Their services are used by law enforcement agencies, educators, and advocates from around the nation.
From the support group, to the new training resources the Center is celebrating 50 years of service with two events organizers hope will bring out volunteers, supporters, and anyone whose been involved with the Center since its founding. The events also serve as fundraisers to help keep the Center going into the next 50 years.
On Saturday, March 7, the center will host the 10th annual Circle of Support Walk on the campus of LSU. The Walk will be held at the Greek Amphitheater from 8 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. No fee is required to walk, but donations will be accepted.
On Sunday, March 8, the center will host an open house celebration at the BRCIC headquarters located at 3013 Old Forge Drive, Baton Rouge, La 70808 from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. The celebration will include tours of the facility and memorial garden, a silent auction, and light refreshments.
Email email@example.com for more information on either event.
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