Suicide survivors offer help, awareness at annual walk in Warren

By David Skolnick


Losing a loved one to suicide leaves people asking a lot of questions.

Mary Kopiak of Warren, whose 19-year-old daughter, Valerie, committed suicide in 1998, said, “I have such guilt. I found her unconscious and thought she was drunk.”

Valerie had taken hundreds of pills, her mother said, and then died after being on life support for 11 days.

“I don’t want any other mother to go through this,” Kopiak said Saturday at the sixth annual Survivors of Suicide Awareness Walk around the four corners of Courthouse Square. “When she died, a part of me left. I was a basket case.”

About 50 people participated in the event that honors the memories of loved ones who committed suicide.

“When people die in car crashes, they’re treated like angels,” Kopiak said. “When someone [commits suicide], people point fingers. It is a comfort to be with others going through this. It will be with me forever.”

Brenda Naylor of Tionesta, Pa., participated in the event to honor her sister, Jackie Schultz of Warren, who committed suicide June 7, 2012.

“This is a great oppor-tunity to meet with other survivors,” Naylor said. “You have so many questions about why. She had mental illness and decided to take that way out.”

Like Kopiak with her daughter, Naylor said she was surprised her sister committed suicide.

“It’s shocking because you don’t expect it,” Naylor said.

Even though she didn’t see it coming, Naylor said if a person has an inkling that a loved one is considering suicide, “try to do what you can to help them out, even if it’s going to therapy.”

Mahoning and Trumbull counties each average about 30 suicides a year, said Cathy Grizinski, who facilitates the Help Hotline Crisis Center’s survivors of suicide support group and helps organize this annual event.

“We want to bring awareness to suicide in general and to let the families know they are not alone,” she said. “Being a survivor is not something you get over, it’s something you get through. It’s a process.”

Grizinski said losing a loved one to suicide “is the most unique grief a person can go through. There is a stigma about suicide.”

Suicide, she said, is the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 35,000 a year.

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