ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The second annual New York State Suicide Prevention Conference began at the Empire State Plaza on Monday.
Scholars and mental health professionals filled the concourse for the first of a two-day conference to discuss suicide prevention techniques and research.
This year’s theme is “Pillars of Prevention.” The three pillars represent health care, communities, and data. Organizers said each pillar is essential to addressing the issue.
“Almost everybody knows somebody who has died by suicide or who has made a suicide attempt,” Barbara Stanley, PhD Columbia University, said.
The main purpose of the conference is to inform mental health professionals about new suicide prevention research, but for one clinical researcher, the event was personal.
“One of my best friends from high school, she was a New York State trooper – Trooper Kerstin Williams – unfortunately passed away from suicide,” Clinical Research Coordinator Jaime Wilsnack said. “So being in this field is kinda a way for me to honor her life.”
Wilsnack dedicated her life to studying mental illness. When she graduated Catholic Central High School and moved out of the Capital Region to pursue her dreams, she was never expecting to hear the news that her best friend had committed suicide.
“My mom actually called me,” she recalled. “And I just was sitting here with my paperwork that had suicide on it, and I think there’s a numbness. And then it slowly sets in and then – coming back up here was just – all thoughts almost leave your head.”
Now, Wilsnack returns to the exact same room in Empire State Plaza where they attended high school program and where Williams graduated from the police academy. Wilsnack said that it is Williams’s legacy that drives her to work harder every day.
“Her picture is in my office, so if I’m ever dealing with paperwork and long hours, I’m like, alright, I’m gonna keep going and keep working so I can help people in her honor,” she said.
If you know someone who might be suffering with suicidal thoughts, don’t assume they’ll be okay. Wilsnack said to not wait and reach out and ask if they need your help.
Last year, 1,400 New Yorkers took their own lives. For every one death by suicide, experts said there are nearly 25 attempts.
For more information, visit New York State Suicide Prevention Conference.