CHESHIRE — The topic of suicide is generally not willingly brought up. People find it uncomfortable. For those who have experienced suicide in their family or among their circle of friends, it can be unbearable. Suicide, however, is among the leading causes of death in the United States. Approximately one person dies of suicide every 40 seconds, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
“It’s difficult to discuss, but the topic is difficult to dismiss,” said Krissy Dorsey, board member of the Connie J. Klanica Foundation, a philanthropic non-profit which was created after her aunt Connie, who was born and lived in Cheshire, lost her battle with clinical depression.
“Mental health and suicide – it’s more prevalent than any of us expected,” Dorsey said.
In 2018, the Seinkowski and Klanica families created the foundation “out of grief,” Dorsey said, describing her aunt as a very generous and giving person.
“We knew we weren’t the only ones experiencing this (type of) loss. We hope to help others to not be our shoes or hers,” said Dorsey.
The Connie J. Klanica Foundation is based in Cheshire, at 205 Jinny Hill Road. The mission and vision statement of the foundation as stated on its website is “to alleviate the burden and offer support to those in need.”
The focus of the foundation rests on three areas which are “research concerning mental illness, spreading awareness through education and advocacy, and helping individuals and families who have a mental health condition,” Dorsey said.
CJKF has provided financial aid to individuals and families who have trouble covering therapy costs and co-pays to ensure that finances are not a reason someone does not seek treatment, Dorsey said, adding that the inability to afford mental health services plays a big part in someone seeking help or not.
“We want to spread the message that help is available and for now we have funds, whether we can cover one session or one recommendation from a licensed therapist,” she said, adding, “We basically help fill the gap.”
“We also hope to create an openness when discussing mental health so that people are more likely to seek the best possible treatments. Our work in education includes sponsoring Mental Health First Aid courses and paying for need-based individuals to participate in the course,” said Dorsey.
She explained that the foundation currently works with the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention CT Chapter, to advocate for its programs and to help bring mental health education to businesses and schools.
Locally, the Cheshire Chamber of Commerce and the Osterman Company have taken advantage of their classes.
A new pro-active outreach campaign is “Reach In.”
“It’s all about checking in on someone instead of believing they will reach out if they are in trouble,” Dorsey said.
In Hamden, the health and wellness committee of the Abdul Majid Karim Hasan Islamic Center received assistance from CJKF. The committee had a goal to help individuals recognize the importance of becoming his/her own health advocate through education and practice, gaining the necessary tools to reach out and help our greater community, said the AMKH Health and Wellness Chair Tanya Howell, MSN, RN.
“It was important to accomplish this goal by funding our training in one of the most critical areas of health, mental health. We are proud to say that our entire health team, including our Imam, is now Mental Health First Aid Certified,” Howell said.
CJKF fundraising events are scheduled for the fall, beginning with September’s cut your own sunflowers during the “You are my Sunshine,” event at Geremia Farms in Wallingford. October offers a virtual concert by Tree of Forgiveness, a non-profit started by former Cheshire resident Jeff Smith. In November, a virtual bingo event is planned.
If you or someone you know needs help Text TALK to 741741 or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
For details on CJKF events, its mission and programs, go to connieklanicafoundation.org.