The Ely Times

The 2nd annual Walk in Memory Walk for Hope will be held at Steptoe Park located at 13th east and Avenue I, Saturday, Sept. 15.  Registration will begin at 9 a.m. and opening ceremonies start at 10 a.m.

This event is coordinated through the Nevada Coalition for Suicide Prevention. The vision of the Nevada Coalition for Suicide Prevention ensures all Nevadans feel hopeful and are connected to the resources they need. In so doing, the coalition hopes that all communities will be free from suicide.

For decades, Nevada has consistently been among those states reporting the highest incidence of suicides. Suicide is the 8th leading cause of death for Nevadans. It’s the second leading cause of death for our youth age 15-24. Nevada seniors over 65 have the 4th highest suicide rate in the nation, almost double the national average for the same age group.

Nearly 800,000 people die by suicide in the world each year, which is roughly one death every 40 seconds.

The walk last year was held in Ely for the first time, and more than 75 people came out to walk in memory and walk for hope by creating awareness on suicide.

Tonya Lemich, who has coordinated this event for the second year in a row, said, “The main focus is to bring attention to this epidemic. And if we can bring awareness to the community, hopefully we can change the statistics.

“On an average, 123 lives  are being taken every single day. It has no racial, religious, age, orientation, or gender restrictions.  It is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-34. The Silence is Deafening. It’s time to talk about it.”

Suicide does not have a stereotype either, it could be a coworker, a neighbor, schoolmate, family member, or significant other.

Michell Laswell, a mother of a young woman named Eryca Laswell who ended her life on Oct. 23, 2015, sat down and told her story about Eryca’s life and the days and hours that led up to Eryca’s last hours in the fall of 2015.

Laswell explained that since Eryca’s passing she along with her other two children participate in the annual you are not alone event at the high school.

“I think that mental illness is not just a young people problem, there are older people that lose the battle everyday, but having had depression myself, it’s something young people need to be told alot,” she said. “I think the biggest things about this is, it doesn’t matter how much you hear it, if you’re brain is not gonna believe it you’re not going to believe it, and the brain is an amazing tool and it can also be your worse enemy.”

Laswell remembers Eryca’s first bout of depression was in 6th grade, after they moved back to Ely, when there was a lot of changes that occurred.

She left her friends behind in Idaho, moved to a different school, and she struggled the first couple of years. She had her first suicide attempt at age 12.

“I remember being so relieved because we caught it in time because we were going to fix this,”  Laswell explained that Eryca was on several prescription medications, but with those meds several of them caused side effects, and one of those side effects was suicidal tendencies.

Laswell remembers having to take Eryca’s bedroom door off, and not even being able to give Eryca so much as a pencil because it was sharp.

Eryca’s depression was a roller coaster, and they went through several misdiagnosis, of mental illness.

Laswell described Eryca as a tiny, petite, curly haired, quiet beautiful girl who was sometimes  bullied because of her beauty.

Laswell explained the last time with Eryca before she ended her life.

“She was with us all the time, it was that one time when she called to tell us she was going to get her medication, she called her grandma to ask if she could stay in town and hang out in the rain,” she said.

Laswell explained that Eryca had even said in her suicide note that she would try and try again if this time it didn’t work.

Laswell explains making the call to dispatch, and her being in dispatch for several years herself, all of her training went out the window. She was yelling, she was upset, and the dispatcher, who she knew, Sami Blackham, was on the other line, trying to calm her down.

Laswell ultimately ended up driving out to the location where the Sheriff’s office had reportedly found Eryca, and Laswell said, “Officer Wilking came to me, and grabbed me and held me, telling me you do not want to see her.”

She explains how thankful she was for the relationship she had with the deputies and staff at the sheriff’s office.

Laswell described her daughter as a beautiful young woman, “and I’m not saying that because she was mine. She made me so very proud, and I’m honored I got her for the time she was here”.

If Laswell could tell any of the youth who may be going through something similar to what her daughter experienced, she would say this “if your mind is telling you that you aren’t wanted or loved, or needed, or the world would be better off without them, that is a lie.

“Speaking as a survivor I know that’s absolutely not true for anyone.”