Local version of national event gives gamers suicide info

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Scott Teichmer, co-chair of the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Muskegon, hosted a table full of information about preventing suicide at the Griffin’s Rest on Third Street in Muskegon for a local “Jasper’s Game Day” May 11.

– PHOTOS BY JEANNE VOLLMER


By Cynthia Price

Sadly, suicide rates are increasing. 2017 Centers for Disease Control statistics indicated that the number of suicides per 100,000 has increased 33% since 1999, from 10.5 to 14.
In 2016, suicide became the second-highest cause of death among people aged 10-34. (Although the suicide rate is higher in people aged 45-54 and in those over 85, there are many more deaths from other causes in those age groups.) According to the CDC, the raw numbers for 2017 were 47,173 with 1,400,000 attempts.

Though the increases are not uniform (the biggest jump was in middle-aged white people from rural areas), all of this is certainly very painful, and very much worth working to prevent.

Still, the worst pain is when just one of those suicides has a familiar face on it, the face of a friend or loved one.

This is what happened to a young woman named Fenway Jones in 2017-2018. She lost two friends in less than a year, and one of them, a boy named Jasper, was her partner in gaming – defined as “the playing of games that simulate actual conditions (as of business or war)” or “the playing of video games.” (Currently, role-playing games and strategy games are often not played on a computer.)

Jones and another friend started brainstorming a gaming day in honor of her friend, and Jones ran with it.

The day, dedicated to suicide prevention, has spread across the country, and that is why the Third Street retail and gaming store The Griffin’s Rest came to hold a Jasper’s Game Day last Saturday.

The Griffin’s Rest owner Kiel (pronounced “Kyle”) Reid says that he was approached by a gaming customer, Michael Pyne, who also works for HealthWest on suicide prevention.

“We sell board games, role playing games, card games, and things like that,” Reid said, “but we also have an upstairs that’s dedicated to game-playing. We host events up there as well, and we were happy to do it when Michael hooked us up with Jasper’s Game Day.” (There was also an event they coordinated at Blue Bridge Games in Grand Rapids that same day.)

Pyne is the co-chair of Muskegon’s Suicide Prevention Coalition, and the other co-chair is Scott Teichmer, who spent much of that Saturday at The Griffin’s Rest handing out information.

It was a high point of Pyne’s and Teichmer’s trip to a national suicide convention in Colorado when they met Fenway Jones, who was only 14 when she started Jasper’s Game Day and has since been named The American Association for Suicidology's Person Of The Year.

As she stated when she founded it, “The event was designed to help prevent other families and friends from feeling the same pain I did and do, along with honoring the memory of Jasper.”

At The Griffin’s Rest, Teichmer said he had some great conversations and although he was not approached by many, “I think just the fact that the event existed, that people saw the marketing for it or were just in the store for other reasons was great, as far as acknowledging mental health struggles and people lost to suicide.”

Teichmer and Pyne also co-lead what Teichmer, who is a former HealthWest employee now working at the Child Abuse Council, says is “very rare” ­– a peer support group for suicide attempt survivors. (Suicide attempts occur at approximately 30-40 times the rate of completed suicides.) The Suicide Attempt Survivors Support Group meets the second Wednesday of each month at 7-8:30 p.m., at the Hackley Campus of Mercy Health. He suggests looking on the facebook page www.facebook.com/suicidepreventioncoalition/ for updates.

The Suicide Prevention Coalition itself continues to meet the fourth Wednesday of every other month (the next three are May 22, July 24, and Sept. 25) at HealthWest, 336 E. Apple Avenue (Teichmer says there may be a change of location in the future), and there is also a suicide loss survivors support group that meets the third Monday of each month, from 7-8:30, at St. Michael’s Catholic Church, 1716 Sixth St.

Teichmer adds that for more information on any of this, people can email spcmuskegon@gmail.com, which he answers.

The national suicide crisis line is 800-273-8255 and the Muskegon Crisis Line is 231-722-4357.

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