In the Muenster University Center pit lounge Thursday night, Brad Hearst told students the story of his brother’s death.
Hearst is the founder of Survivors Joining For Hope (SJ4H), a group dedicated to supporting the loved ones of those who passed away by suicide. A group, joined by the Paul Taggart Foundation, that spoke at USD Nursing’s first Life of Suicide Survivors (LOSS) event, a community project assembled by nursing students.
“He was 26 years old when he passed away,” Hearst said. “Life’s pressures just got a little too heavy for him.”
Hearst’s brother was active duty in the U.S. army twice deployed to Iran and then Afghanistan. Upon return from his final deployment, Hearst said his brother struggled through alcoholism and depression. A beneficiary to his brother’s life insurance policy, Hearst said he used the $250,000 he received to begin SJ4H, named from the initials of his brother.
“It’s a struggle. I still struggle to talk about it to this day. But that’s why we’re here. We’re here to talk about our feelings. We’re here to talk about our emotions,” he said.
Chauntel Wright, founder of the Paul Taggart Foundation, gave her testimony of the leading to her son’s passing on March 5, 2016. From that, she created the Foundation, named after him.
“I don’t wish to be here. No one wishes to be here,” she opened. “We’re taking something very negative and trying to do positive. It has helped with the healing process.”
Noah Hauck, a senior nursing major, said they had been working with Wright since fall to create LOSS and educate students about the lasting effects of mental health and suicide.
“I hope that they realize that it is an issue,” Hauck said. “I hope it raises awareness on campus.”
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. The rate of suicide in ages 15-24 has risen from 9.7 in 2004 to 14.46 in 2017 (per 100,000 people).
“Obviously college students are going to fall right in the midst of that,” Wright said. “And with the increase of stresses and pressures of going to school and being away from home, the risk heightens.”
Wright said the overall hope of LOSS and the Paul Taggart foundation is to raise awareness of suicide and its impact on survivors.
“Just to get information to the students if they themselves are having suicidal thoughts and what the resources are to get help,” she said. “Or if they know a friend or a loved one, to be able to know where to go.”
Hearst’s mission, and the mission behind SJ4H, is similar, he said.
“A lot of people don’t realize there’s a support structure for people who have lost somebody. We don’t do any prevention work; we’re all recovery,” he said. “We want people to know that they’re not alone. When you lose someone, you feel abandoned, you don’t know who to go to. We want them to know that we’re here to support them.”
On campus, students in need of assistance can contact the Cook House or the Student Counseling Center.