Denis Gillan: Suicide Sucks

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Hailey Wilt |

September 19 brought upon yet another Anti-Hazing speaker to have hit Radford University’s campus, but it was not exactly what Radford’s Greek Life has expected. The Preston auditorium was filled with all organizations of the Panhellenic Council and well as the Interfraternity Council. Members of the organization expressed their disdain for the annual hazing prevention speaker that seems to grace our campus each year. This quickly changed once the S.A.V.E.S office head approached the stage. The Substance Abuse and Violence Education Support services presented Dennis Gillan.

Denis Gillan is a motivational speaker who speaks around the United States to combat the stigma surrounding mental health. Throughout his life, Dennis has lost his two other brothers due to suicide, leaving behind him and his two other sisters. His presentation was titled “My Journey Towards Recovery: Suicide Sucks,” and he told the audience that he was ‘damn proud’ to be at Radford University. The second that Denis got onto the stage, he expressed how he knew the first few slides were going to be the hardest for him to talk about, even after all this time.

During college, he got ready like it was a regular Tuesday, he wore his baseball cap and got all his books that he would need for the next few days. He told himself that he would be working hard to study for a quiz, then he got a phone call that changes everything. His sister Janice had called to tell him to come home and that Mark, their brother, had died in a car accident. It wasn’t an ordinary car accident; his car never left the park. Their whole family acted as if Mark’s death had not altered their lives, and they all took a different toll.

Denis turned to drinking away his pain, which leads to him finding out another family member did something even more severe. Denis received yet another phone call a mere eleven years later. Matt, his other brother, had committed suicide as well. After this loss, he chose to go down a different and more forgiving path; sobriety. Sep 19 counted twenty-three years, one month, and seventeen days that he had been sober. For those who are not aware, that is 8449 days in total. Denis also began going to counseling and found it refreshing as I his pain was being halved each session, but he knew it would never go away.

The Substance Abuse and Violence Education Support Services also held a slide during the presentation in which served as a focal point for students to recognize for future help. S.A.V.E.S is on the bottom floor of Tyler Hall on Radford’s campus, and their phone number is (540) 831-5226. There are a lot of possible outreach programs and figures that became available during the presentation. For instance, you can text 741741 to receive a crisis counselor to text your worries and concerns to. The Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-274-TALK.

Denis Gillan has experienced the loss of his family members but has also reached out to dozens of individuals who have been thinking about suicide. Having worked at a hotline, Denis has talked to many people of all ages about their concerns for both living and dying, and he says people have ambivalence. Ambivalence is when a person wants to die, but they also want to live. The statistics of suicide can be found on any website, but one well-known fact that was shared was that 76% of men who contemplate suicide follow through with the act, while women have more attempts versus completions.

Gillan also shared a slide about the many ‘warning-signs’ that those who are contemplating suicide do before their attempt it. Such as talking about wanting to die, having a fascination with death, they become suddenly happier overnight, give away possessions, and turn to drugs or alcohol to deal with life. Towards the end of the presentation, Denis shared only two more things with the audience. One was a quote stating, “Delad glädje är dubbel glädje, delad sorg är halv sorg” which means “shared joy is double joy, shared sorrow is half sorrow.” Denis spoke highly of sharing your grief with others, and it will take away half of that pain each time. The other thing that he left Radford with was that he wants everyone to grow and conquer beyond what has happened to us in the past, is happening to us now, or will happen to everyone in the future.

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