'Empty Shoes, Empty Hearts' highlights efforts to prevent youth suicides

  • There were 57 pairs of shoes, one for each young victim of suicide, on display Friday as part of the "Empty Shoes, Empty Hearts" youth suicide prevention event held by the Rotary Club at the Children's Advocacy Center in Hoffman Estates.

      There were 57 pairs of shoes, one for each young victim of suicide, on display Friday as part of the "Empty Shoes, Empty Hearts" youth suicide prevention event held by the Rotary Club at the Children's Advocacy Center in Hoffman Estates. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Gabriela Vargas, chair of the new Rotary Satellite Club, SHERC, speaks Friday at the "Empty Shoes, Empty Hearts" youth suicide prevention event at the Children's Advocacy Center in Hoffman Estates.

      Gabriela Vargas, chair of the new Rotary Satellite Club, SHERC, speaks Friday at the "Empty Shoes, Empty Hearts" youth suicide prevention event at the Children's Advocacy Center in Hoffman Estates. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Mark Parr, director of the Children's Advocacy Center, speaks Friday at the "Empty Shoes, Empty Hearts" youth suicide prevention event held by the Rotary Club at the Children's Advocacy Center in Hoffman Estates.

      Mark Parr, director of the Children's Advocacy Center, speaks Friday at the "Empty Shoes, Empty Hearts" youth suicide prevention event held by the Rotary Club at the Children's Advocacy Center in Hoffman Estates. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Gabriela Vargas, chair of the new Rotary Satellite Club, SHERC, speaks at the "Empty Shoes, Empty Hearts" youth suicide prevention event held by the Rotary Club of Schaumburg/Hoffman Estates at the Children's Advocacy Center in Hoffman Estates Friday.

      Gabriela Vargas, chair of the new Rotary Satellite Club, SHERC, speaks at the "Empty Shoes, Empty Hearts" youth suicide prevention event held by the Rotary Club of Schaumburg/Hoffman Estates at the Children's Advocacy Center in Hoffman Estates Friday. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • People are socially distanced throughout the Rotary Club's Butterfly Healing Garden during the "Empty Shoes, Empty Hearts" youth suicide prevention event at the Children's Advocacy Center in Hoffman Estates Friday.

      People are socially distanced throughout the Rotary Club's Butterfly Healing Garden during the "Empty Shoes, Empty Hearts" youth suicide prevention event at the Children's Advocacy Center in Hoffman Estates Friday. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Schaumburg Village President Tom Dailly speaks at the "Empty Shoes, Empty Hearts" youth suicide prevention event held by the Rotary Club at the Children's Advocacy Center in Hoffman Estates Friday.

      Schaumburg Village President Tom Dailly speaks at the "Empty Shoes, Empty Hearts" youth suicide prevention event held by the Rotary Club at the Children's Advocacy Center in Hoffman Estates Friday. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Gabriela Vargas, chair of the new Rotary Satellite Club, SHERC, speaks at the "Empty Shoes, Empty Hearts" youth suicide prevention event held at the Children's Advocacy Center in Hoffman Estates Friday.

      Gabriela Vargas, chair of the new Rotary Satellite Club, SHERC, speaks at the "Empty Shoes, Empty Hearts" youth suicide prevention event held at the Children's Advocacy Center in Hoffman Estates Friday. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/9/2020 6:56 PM

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.

At the end of the remembrance, 57 "Bulbs of Hope" were planted in remembrance of the children. More information on the event sponsors is at facebook.com/iamsherc and cachelps.org.

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.

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