'Empty Shoes, Empty Hearts' highlights efforts to prevent youth suicides
On the eve of World Mental Health Day, officials gathered Friday at the Rotary Healing Butterfly Garden behind the Children's Advocacy Center in Hoffman Estates in an event called "Empty Shoes, Empty Hearts" to highlight efforts to prevent youth suicide.
Dotted around the butterfly garden were 57 pairs of shoes, one for each 2018 Illinois victim of suicide who was 17 or younger. School officials, politicians and representatives of social service organizations spoke of those lost and of the need to do more to prevent teen suicide.
"One of the goals of our club is to help decrease the rates of suicide in our communities," said Gabriela Vargas, a suicide loss survivor and chair of the new Rotary Satellite Club, SHERC. "Suicide is one of the most traumatic losses, and many are faced with isolation, due to stigma in our communities."
"We're here to say that you are not alone. And that there's hope and healing," said Mark Parr, director of the Children's Advocacy Center. The center offers free, confidential services to children who are victims of sexual abuse, severe physical abuse, witnesses to domestic violence, or involved in as victims or witnesses to other crimes. Trauma and abuse in childhood can lead to feelings of sadness and thoughts of self harm, he said.
Separately, the World Health Organization will conduct its first global online advocacy event on mental health from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday for World Mental Health Day on its Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok and Twitch channels.
World leaders, mental health experts and celebrity guests will discuss how to make sure that quality mental health care is available to everyone who needs it.