Centre County proclaims ‘Suicide Prevention Month’

Concert, screening planned during September

CHRIS MORELLI/THE EXPRESS On Tuesday, the Centre County commissioners adopted Proclamation No. 23 of 2019, proclaiming September as Suicide Prevention Month in Centre County. From left, commissioner Mark Higgins, commissioner Michael Pipe, Jane Marie Foundation executive director Marisa Vicere and commissioner Steve Dershem.

BELLEFONTE — Last year, suicide took the lives of 2,023 people in Pennsylvania. The Jana Marie Foundation is hoping to see those numbers drop.

At Tuesday’s Centre County commissioners’ meeting, the commissioners unanimously adopted Proclamation No. 23 of 2019, proclaiming September as Suicide Prevention Month in Centre County. Additionally, Tuesday, Sept. 10 will serve as Suicide Awareness and Prevention Day in the county.

Marisa Vicere, executive director of the Jana Marie Foundation, spoke at Tuesday’s meeting. She said that nationwide, the numbers are staggering.

“We lost nearly 47,000 individuals to suicide (last year),” Vicere said. “To put that in perspective, it’s about the size of Yankee Stadium … we continue to see an increase in the rate of suicide and we know that it is one of the most preventable kinds of death. So here at Jana Marie Foundation, we believe that education, awareness and having courageous conversations is really key to helping to prevent suicide in our community.”

With that in mind, the Jana Marie Foundation has several events planned for September.

On Tuesday, Sept. 3, the Centre County Suicide Prevention Task Force will host a Suicide Prevention Rally on the stairs of the courthouse beginning at noon.

On Tuesday, Sept. 10, the foundation will host “An Evening of Hope, Healing and Remembrance.” The event is billed as a “free community dinner, program and candle lighting ceremony to remember those who have been lost to suicide, give hope to survivors and end the stigma that surrounds the topic. The dinner egins at 5:30 p.m. at Wasson Farms, 2545 Shingletown Road in State College.

According to Vicere, food will be provided by Carver’s Deli and Olive Garden.

“It’s going to be a really nice time to come together and connect,” Vicere said.

The formal event starts at 6:30 p.m. and features a performance by local favorite Biscuit Jam.

On Saturday, Sept. 21, a concert called “The Philosophy of Hope” will be held at 7 p.m. at The State Theatre in downtown State College.

“Musicians and artists (from) across Centre County are coming together to form one band for the evening,” Vicere explained. “They’re going to be sharing stories of hope and inspiration again.”

Grammy Award-winning producer/musician Nicholai Baxter will perform the original music of Ken Baxter, who lost his son, Alex, to suicide.

“It’s really an uplifting evening,” Vicere said.

On Wednesday, Sept. 25, a screening of “Suicide: The Ripple Effect” will take place at 7 p.m. at State College Area High School in State College. The film documents the journey of Kevin Hines, who at 19 attempted to take his own life by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Following the screening, there will be a panel discussion moderated by Carolyn Donaldson.

Finally, on Thursday, Sept. 26, a brown bag lunch will be held at New Leaf Initiative, 243 S. Allen St. in State College. “Mokita Dialogues: Suicide” will take place at noon. The lunches take place on the fourth Thursday of every month.

Commissioner Michael Pipe commended Vicere and the Jana Marie Foundation for their work.

“I’m always amazed at how much it’s grown over the years and it just keeps growing and growing. You keep finding different ways to get with people and finding different ways decrease stigma, end stigma,” Pipe said.

Commissioner Mark Higgins said that the work of the Jana Marie Foundation is invaluable.

“You’ve done a wonderful job of raising the issue of mental health in Centre County and the commissioners are very much appreciative of everything you’ve done,” Higgins said.

For more information about the Jana Marie Foundation, visit www.janamariefoundation.org.

In other business, the commissioners approved a pair of leases related to the county’s magisterial district offices:

– A second amendment to the lease with S-C Joint Venture for the magisterial court office 49-3-05, located at 121 S. Pugh St. in State College. This extends the current lease for four months from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31 for a total cost of $23,840.

– An amendment to the lease with State College Borough for the magisterial district office 49-1-01 located at 131 S. Fraser St. in State College. This extends the current lease for two months from Sept. 1 through Oct. 31 for a total cost of $7,000.

The commissioners reminded Centre County residents that county government offices will be closed on Monday, Sept. 2 in observance of Labor Day.