COLUMBIANA, Ohio (WKBN) – The despair that comes with depression is something Maureen Waybright knows all about. She swallowed 40 pills in July 1998 in an attempt to end her life. She said she felt hopeless and couldn’t see how things would get better.
A single mother with two children, Waybright said she lived with severe, persistent mental illness since she was 23 years old. That experience has helped her help others.
Waybright shares her story with students at Columbiana County high schools. For the last 16 years, she has worked as a recovery assistant at the county’s Mental Health and Recovery Services
Board. Waybright is one of 14 volunteers on the LOSS (Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors) team.
“It is just amazing how my life has changed and how wonderful it has been for me to be able to help other people, to keep them from going to the point of suicide in their lives,” Waybright said.
Survivors are the family members left behind when a loved one ends his or her life — a feeling Judy Kidder knows firsthand. Her cousin completed suicide, but for so long she says no one wanted to talk about it.
“That is part of our goal to get out there and let people realize it is more common than you realize and that it is OK to talk about it,” Kidder said.
Kidder’s day job the last 27 years is working as a grief facilitator at Dawson Funeral Home in East Liverpool. She said there were 23 suicides in Columbiana County in 2014. She and the LOSS Team sat around many tables with those family members, working through a wide range of emotions from shock and sadness to grief, guilt, and even anger.
“Their anger is not only at the person who completed, but at themselves for not being aware,” Kidder said.
Waybright said she has watched her children grow to become adults and was in the delivery room for the birth of her two granddaughters. She said those life experiences alone outweigh anything that has happened in her past that led her to the point of suicide; a person once on the edge of suicide is now helping others with their battle.
Professionals who deal with suicide use terms such as “completed” and not committed when they speak of suicide. That is because, in many cases, people who complete suicide have tried before. Kidder said the word committed has a certain connotation that makes suicide and mental health issues seem evil or taboo.
Kidder said mental health issues are common and anyone who is suffering should talk about it. Help is available by just calling 211.
Counselors will be on hand Thursday, May 12 in the WKBN 27 First News studios for anyone to call in for free, anonymous mental health and addiction help.
The phone lines open during First News at 5 p.m. and will remain open all evening.