Suicide awareness and prevention fundraiser slated in SK

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A suicide awareness and prevention fundraiser to benefit the D and JH Foundation will be held from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 29 at the CCC Park and Pavilion on Highway YY in Shell Knob.

The foundation, started by Teresa Velat in 2011, hopes to spread awareness of suicide among young people and methods of prevention, along with access to resources for those battling with mental illness.

"Two of my sons committed suicide," Velat said. "My 26-year-old son, D, killed himself following a fight with his wife. He left the house and killed himself.

"My 25-year-old son, J, who had fought with [D] on the night of his suicide, killed himself a year later," she continued. "He was not able to deal with knowing his last words to his brother were in anger.

"He had gotten into athletics and steroid use, which just enhanced his depression," Velat said.

Velat has five other children, who have dealt with the loss of two brothers differently.

"My 20-year-old daughter won't talk about it," Velat said. "She had developed a close bond with J, and she felt that he broke his promise to her not to do the same thing D did. He abandoned her.

"My 17-year-old son doesn't talk about it either," she continued. "I am overly protective of him, and he knows that. He gets depressed about it, but I watch my kids. I'll get them the help they need before it becomes a serious issue."

Velat's 18-year-old daughter is not handling the deaths of her brothers well, either.

"She buried herself in a bad relationship," Velat said. "She had suicidal tendencies, and I got help for her. She started cutting herself after D died. It seems she feels she needs to be punished in some way."

Velat's 24-year-old daughter experienced many of the initial emotional lows associated with death.

"She was very angry in the beginning," Velat said. "She still has her moments, birthdays and death dates, things like that. She struggles."

With age comes perspective, and Velat's 30-year-old daughter has handled herself and her family well following the double tragedy.

"She's doing well," Velat said. "She supports the foundation and is in a good relationship and has a new baby.

"She had helped me when we were trying to get D to kick heroin," Velat said. "She saw the torture he was in during that time. He went back to it after he got clean, and we knew something was going to happen. He was going to be in the wrong place at the wrong time or he was going to overdose."

Velat herself went through a period of withdrawal from society and became manic-depressive following the events.

"I couldn't talk about it," she said, "but deciding to form the foundation was the best thing that I could do for myself.

"If loss could affect me in this manner, what better way to not let it happen to someone else?" she said. "I turned my weaknesses into strengths.

Suicide is something people don't talk about, Velat said.

"But it is out there," she explained. "It's happening right here. People have to know they can talk about it. One out of five people in this county knows someone who has committed suicide. I'm encouraging people to watch for the signs and help me prevent it."

The D and JH Foundation will provide fliers and brochures with information on depression and the signs given by potential suicide victims, along with hotline information and available resources.

"I hope we can raise enough money to assist some people with paying for treatment," Velat said. "We are also trying to get government funding to help people who may be considering suicide."

Saturday's inaugural fundraiser will feature bands, line dancers, karaoke, a silent auction and a drawing for prizes. Concessions will be available.

For more information on the event or the D and JH Foundation, contact Velat at 417-393-0931

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