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SFU walk sends vital messages

The powerful messages emanating from the two-hour walk by Saint Francis University students and faculty on Sept. 25 extend beyond trying to prevent suicides.

Heeding the messages that the student-faculty walk delivered could have the additional effect of saving lives under different circumstances and conditions, sparing loved ones and friends from the devastating sorrow and heartache that families and acquaintances of victims inevitably endure.

As stressed by Susan Obarsky, assistant director of the Loretto university’s counseling center, each suicide has a huge ripple effect — the stigma surrounding suicide often keeping suicide loss survivors from reaching out, thus becoming increasingly isolated.

“It’s a time to remember loved ones and to provide comfort for those who survive,” Obarsky said.

The same is true regarding another group of survivors — those who have lost a relative or friend through unintended “suicide” resulting from free-will participation in the illegal-drug culture.

When a person opts to enter the world of illegal drugs, he or she steps into a purported euphoric, carefree state of mind and well-being that ends up being anything but that — instead, often resulting in suicide by overdose or by sordid wearing-down of the body’s mechanisms of life.

Meanwhile, across America, the number is no doubt staggering of people who destroy themselves each year, torn apart from virtually any possibility of ever again living a life free from addiction.

Then many choose to end their lives by whatever means — through suicide — because of not knowing which way to turn for help, or because they fear the unpleasant challenges tied to casting off their addictions and trying to remain drug-free.

They die and their survivors suffer greatly.

This is a time in Pennsylvania when the Sept. 25 suicide-prevention event on the SFU campus should be recognized as having had a potentially much deeper and broader message than even the participants might have imagined as they marched, participated in a vigil during which the names of 100 suicide victims were read, followed by a candlelight service.

Currently, there is a deeply troubling move in this state to allow adult-use, recreational marijuana — an easing of the state’s drug law that eventually, in many people, might end up inspiring use of stronger and more dangerous drugs, ending in their death and — yes — bringing sorrow, heartache and isolation to their survivors.

Meanwhile, along the way, marriages, other relationships and families will no doubt be damaged or destroyed, and there will be vehicle accidents caused by drivers under the influence of the now-illegal substance, resulting in injuries and deaths — accidents that might not have happened if recreational marijuana had remained against the law.

At the Saint Francis event, it was noted that an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics had found that in 2017, 14 out of every 100,000 Americans died by suicide.

How Pennsylvania’s highway-accident statistics would fare due to widespread use of recreational marijuana is a sobering thought.

Yes, “it’s a time to remember loved ones and to provide comfort for those who survive,” as Obarsky pointed out.

But when suicide and other senseless deaths can be prevented, finality can be replaced by an increasing sense of hope.

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