By Marty Gordon
The World Health Association says close to 800 000 people die due to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds. Those same statistics show more than 350 million people across the world – of all ages and from all communities – suffer from depression.
For one Christiansburg man, he is hoping his personal struggles will help others in dealing with their addictions and feelings of depression. Will Curtis shared his own story Friday as “October, Suicide Awareness Month” comes to an end.
“I was lost and did not have self-worth. I got hooked on painkillers after suffering an injury to my back, and attempted to overdose three separate times,” he said
Every time, Curtis said he would awake and be mad because he was still alive. “God had another plan for me, and when I realized that, my life changed,” he continued.
Those events almost destroyed his family and what career he had established while living near Knoxville, Tennessee. In 2009, he became suicidal and lay in a hospital after another overdose attempt.
“I kept thowing it all away—my life, my family, my career. These feelings affect so many people that’s its unbelievable,” Curtis said.
Depression is labeled as a common mental disorder and at worst, experts say depression leads to suicide.
“I felt hopeless and couldn’t at the time do anything about it,” Curtis said.
Suicide rates in the United States have increased substantially over the past two decades, and Curtis is doing his best to decrease the numbers.
After moving to Christiansburg, he now serves as the director of community outreach director for Eagles Nest Regeneration, a Floyd-based program which helps men who are lost in alcohol or drug addiction and have a sincere desire to change. He also serves as a professional substance abuse counselor.
“God didn’t want to me to die, and a voice told me he was NOT done with me yet. I struggled with anxiety and seasonal depression. Initially, I had painkillers prescribed for the back injury which progressed to oxycontin, and I would self-medicate to deal with the depression. I thought I would never be successful in life,” he said.
That’s when he turned to addictions recovery, and now Curtis is a graduate of the Recovery program he is assisting with.
“My passion is working with people, helping them to identify those negative things in their past and going back and replacing them with positive truths. Celebrate Recovery works,” he said.
Suicide, according to Curtis, is not the answer even though at the moment it might seem that way.
“I admit I still struggle. My story is mine, but it’s like so many others also struggling so maybe it will help them in dealing with the same things,” he said. Once he brought God into his heart, he learned to deal with the struggles.
The American Foundation for the Prevention of Suicide Death says 90% of those who died by suicide had a diagnosable mental health condition at the time of their death.
The recent figures are staggering: 47,173 Americans died by suicide this past year, and suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and second leading cause of death for ages 15-34, and the fourth leading cause of death for ages 35-54.
On average, 129 Americans died by suicide each day and 1.4 million Americans have attempted suicide.
Celebrate Recovery has been offered locally for the past two years and is a national program based on the 12-steps of Alcoholic Anonymous and eight additional steps to help with “hurts, habits, and hang-ups”, including but not exclusive to: high anxiety; co-dependency; compulsive behaviors; sex addiction; financial dysfunction; drug and alcohol addictions; and eating disorders.
“We have 25-30 people who have given their time over the past 18 months to get better. This works and I want to help as many people as possible,” Curtis said.
The Christian-faith based group meets once a week for up to eight months at the Bridge Church off Route 8.
“This is a safe environment for people to come talk about their struggles, listen to others that might be going through the same things and seek support in dealing with these problems,” Curtis said.
“If you feel depressed, tell someone that you trust. Admit you are struggling and others like friends need to ask the right questions in order to help the individuals. Everyone struggles with mental health at times, but you’re not in this alone,” Curtis said.
If you have feelings of suicide, you can also call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or locally the Raft Crisis Hotline is a program of NRVCS (New River Valley Community Services) that offers free paraprofessional phone counseling services to the community.
Their volunteers provide suicide and crisis intervention, empathy and support, mental health and substance abuse information and referrals to the counties of Montgomery, Floyd, Giles, Pulaski and the City of Radford (including Virginia Tech and Radford University). The Raft hotline number is 961-8400.
Raft operates 4 p.m. – 8 a.m. Monday through Friday and 24 hours on the weekends. NRVCS Case Managers answer the phones during business hours and New Horizons, a residential crisis stabilization program, provides callers with services when volunteers are unavailable.
Curtis’ program of Recovery meets every Friday at the Bridge Church, 880 Life Drive in Christiansburg. For more information on the program, contact the church at 381-9766.
For additional information on Celebrate Recovery go to: .www.celebraterecovery.com.