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New Lenox panel discusses suicide prevention

When Charles Cossetti thinks of depression and its impact on people in the community, he knows the stigma isn’t helpful.

“If somebody punched me in the head and I had a physical injury, nobody would be like, ‘Okay, you shouldn’t go to the doctor and get that looked at,’” he said. “If life punches you in the head, all of sudden, it makes you weird.”

The village of New Lenox and the New Lenox Safe Communities America Coalition recently hosted a panel discussion in support of World Suicide Prevention Day.

The Sept. 13 event was meant to bring greater awareness to the mental health issues that people in the community at times face and provide a space to promote suicide prevention.

“We couldn’t do this without the support of our mayor, Tim Baldermann, and our village board,” said Dan Martin, safe community coordinator for New Lenox Safe Communities America Coalition. “The mayor’s been a super, strong proponent of Safe Communities since its inception in 2009.”

A few weeks ago, the village hosted a forum on the opioid epidemic and its impact to the community.

Baldermann said it’s crucial that the village tackles issues that plague society head-on.

“Our job as community leaders—aside from making sure your snow gets plowed—is looking out for your whole well-being,” he said.

Cossetti said he doesn’t want anyone to feel ashamed to have depression.

Years ago, Cossetti’s father committed suicide. What’s more is Cossetti’s best friend committed suicide when he was 17 years old.

“About a year later, I was very suicidal,” Cossetti recalled. “I found God, and the rest is history.”

Cossetti is a resident of New Lenox and a songwriter by profession.

Cossetti said about a month ago, he picked up a new term dubbed, “freepression”, when attending a church service.

“Impression without expression leads to depression and that resonated with me,” he said. “That’s why freepression is being free of depression. … I believe we should freely express it.”

Cossetti has since created a music video for a song, titled, “Freepression”, in which he tells the story of what it’s like living with depression.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five adults experience a mental health condition every year. What’s more is half of mental health conditions begin by age 14.

Mike Mecozzi, a behavioral health professional for Trinity Services, acknowledged that mental health is a difficult topic to discuss and said he wants people to know they’re not alone.

“Things like depression, anxiety, mental illness, suicidal thoughts—they’re not dangerous in the light, but they’re dangerous in the dark,” he said. “I think it’s just fascinating when we think about how much of a stigma still surrounds mental illness.”

Gia Washington, a behavioral health professional from Sertoma Centre, said that keeping issues of mental health in the dark is not helpful.

“If all of us are working together, we can definitely make a dent in the number of lives lost.”

Mecozzi agreed.

“When we’re willing to share our stories, it allows other people to share their stories,” he said. “We can truly connect, and then we can truly heal.”

The event was held Sept. 13, featuring representation from Silver Cross Hospital, the Crisis Line of Will and Grundy Counties, NAMI of Will-Grundy Counties, Linden Oaks and Catholic Charities.

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