Free lecture at Hays to focus on the stigma of suicide

Maria Perez

Press release

Suicide and the stigma attached to it will be the focus of a free public lecture at 7 p.m. on Thursday, September 22 at the Beach-Schmidt Performing Arts Center.

The speaker will be Maria Perez, clinical pharmacist at Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. in St. Louis. His talk, titled “Mental Health Awareness: A Focus on Suicide and Stigma,” is part of the John C. Thorns Jr. Memorial Lecture Series. The event is funded by grants from Midwest Energy and United Way.

Special guest Dave Schramm, who presented the 2019 Thorns Lecture, will introduce Perez. Schramm is a Hays native and an alumnus and former faculty member of TMP-Marian High School. He openly shared his own story of surviving a near-fatal suicide attempt and moving forward in recovery. Schramm currently lives in San Francisco and teaches at the University of California-Davis.

Dave Schramm
Dave Schramm

Perez’s talk will focus on “the importance of raising awareness about mental health and the interplay between suicide, mental health issues and stigma,” as well as the resources available to prevent suicide, according to a press release. .

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one of the event’s co-organizers, 1 in 5 American adults suffers from mental illness each year. This figure is 1 in 6 for young Americans aged 6 to 17. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 34. At least 8.4 million people in the United States provide care to an adult with a mental or emotional problem, and those caregivers spend an average of 32 hours a week providing unpaid care.

According to the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability, the state of Kansas’ suicide rate has increased by more than 60 percent, from 12.02 per 100,000 population in 2000 to 19.5 per 100,000 population in 2020. gave Kansas the 13th highest suicide rate in the nation.

The lecture series began in 2016 and is named after John C. Thorns Jr., former head of the art department at Fort Hays State University.

“He was a strong advocate for mental health and suicide prevention,” said Ann Leiker, one of the event organizers. Leiker recently retired as executive director of the Center for Life Experience, which is also one of the organizations co-hosting this event.

Thorns was on the founding board of CFLE and helped start Healing After Loss of Suicide, one of the center’s bereavement support groups, Leiker said.

Hosts for the event are the City of Hays, Ellis County and United Way through CFLE; PsychU, a free community and online resource library for mental health; Otsuka; Camber Children’s Mental Health (formerly KVC Hospital); High Plains Mental Health; FHSU Health and Welfare Services; and NAMI Hays and NAMI on campus.

Angela C. Hale