Help available during Suicide Prevention Month

Senior Samantha Rigo was 14 years old when she lost her dad to suicide, and she said the loss changed her.

After losing her father, Dana “DJ” Rigo, she told her mom she needed help. She tried one-on-one therapy, but she struggled to develop a connection because her therapist had never lost anyone to suicide. When Rigo switched to group therapy, she found the help she needed from the comfort of other people with similar experiences.

Nationally, the Suicide and Prevention hotline, 988, is available to call and text for help 24/7. There are several resources at Coastal to help those who are struggling with the thought of suicide, including TimelyCare, counseling services, and the LiveWell website.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate is the highest it’s been in two decades for Americans aged 15-24 years old, the age group that includes many Coastal students.

Rigo said she thinks if her dad could see what he put his family through when he took his life, he wouldn’t have done it.

“My world literally crashed. I didn’t know what to do with myself, thinking ‘how could he do that to us?’” Rigo said.

Chris Donevant-Haines, director of wellness outreach, said it’s important to know the signs if someone is contemplating suicide to recognize the people who need help. She said when talking to someone who is at risk of suicide, listen first, and be supportive, rather than demanding answers.

Warning signs of suicide are different for everyone. Donevant-Haines said risks include not sleeping or eating well, not coming to class, not taking care of themselves, giving away prized possessions, general sadness, and hopelessness.

Carolyn Ta, senior intern for LiveWell, said to listen to someone who makes comments about suicide. Joking about suicide may be a coping mechanism.

“When people feel like they don’t have resources, if their resources are not being met, if their basic needs are not being met. They feel like they can’t make it in life,” Donevant-Haines said.

Counseling services at Coastal are free and confidential. Donevant-Haines said those who are most vulnerable are likely to have mental illnesses, triggers, financial hardship, relationship difficulties, or a family history of suicide.

Rigo said her dad struggled with bi-polar disorder. She said people need to know that treating suicide as a taboo topic reinforces the stigma. Donevant-Haines said men are more at risk to die by suicide, while women are at risk but are more likely to get help.

Veterans are another group that are heavily at risk for suicide. Randy Burk, Coastal’s director of military and veteran services, said he had personal experiences with those he served with taking their lives. Burk said when he was training for his Air Force career, they were told to keep quiet and never ask anyone if they needed help. Burk said military men are expected to “handle themselves,” which discourages them from getting help. He said sexual assault is a severe problem for women who serve and many people resort to substance abuse.

“They can’t disconnect from their experiences. A lot of it is deployment related, seeing things, putting them in the heat of battle,” Burk said. “We struggle, struggle, struggle, and we get to a point where, even with help, it takes a huge effort to overcome it.”

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is hosting their Out of the Darkness Walk in Myrtle Beach for families that have been affected by suicide or are survivors. The walk will be on Oct. 22 this fall for those who are interested. LiveWell will also host their own walk in the spring for survivors and supporters.

Rigo said she felt unloved since her father chose to take his own life. Just the day before, he was on the phone with Rigo’s mother talking about what presents to get for Christmas Day. She said she had to grow up quickly and figure out a “new normal” of how to continue her life without her father. On a quest to heal herself, Rigo did four presentations at her high school to spread awareness for suicide prevention. She wanted to use her grief to help others.

“I seriously don’t think I would be the person I am today without it,” Rigo said. “When you go through a difficult situation like that and have to deal with the trauma of it, it definitely changes you as a person.