GALLIPOLIS — An annual hometown concert by Gallia resident and singer-songwriter Devin Henry continued online this year, with the proceeds going to Gallia Citizens for Prevention and Recovery’s (CPR) Suicide Prevention Committee.
“I think it’s important that we live in area where mental illness and mental health is not something that’s thought about,” Henry said. “One of the biggest messages that I wanted my show to say is that I want everyone to know that it’s okay to not be okay.”
The concert series, called “Hometown Event,” first began in 2018.
“I kind of had this idea to make it about something that was close to my heart, which is suicide prevention and awareness, as I have lost one of my closest friends to suicide as well as several others in Gallia County,” Henry said. “Knowing that that’s kind of a problem in our area and small towns like ours, I wanted to be able to raise money to give back anything to suicide prevention.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the concert took place online this year, along with a charity auction. The new format, however, did not damage the event’s success. According to Henry, the concert raised over five thousand dollars—almost doubling what was raised by the same event in 2019.
“It’s nothing I did, it’s all the community,” Henry said. “I’m very fortunate to have so many kind-hearted people that give back to that.”
The funds from the event went to local suicide prevention efforts in Gallia County, namely, the Suicide Prevention Committee of CPR. CPR works to spread awareness about addiction, but has “morphed into other prevention efforts,” including suicide prevention, which correlates with substance abuse, Amy Sisson, co-chair of the committee, said. The committee works closely with other state and national suicide prevention programs and thinks of different ways to bring awareness to different populations, from students to the elderly.
“Our mission is to provide support, education, and training to address hopelessness and suicide,” the organization’s mission statement reads. “Our vision is a suicide-free, empowered community that interacts effectively with compassion.”
A service the Suicide Prevention Committee notes is available is the national Crisis Text Line service. The committee also offers a prevention program called Question, Persuade, Respond (QPR), which trains community members to detect and respond to suicidal behavior. According to Sisson, QPR has been presented to over 400 people in the past year and a half.
“We really want everyone in the community to be involved in prevention so that if they…see warning signs and behavior they will know how to respond,” Sisson said.
The money raised by Henry’s concert and auction furthers local prevention efforts, and helps the committee pay for speakers and materials.
“Treatment works,” Sisson said. “If someone is hopeless, I want them to know that there’s help available and they don’t have to stay hopeless. They matter and that they can recover.”
The committee emphasizes community involvement in suicide prevention.
“For community members who haven’t experienced suicide, either themselves or a loved ones being suicidal, I want them to know that they are key in prevention,” Sisson said. “You do not have to be a doctor or a counselor or a crisis worker to prevent suicide. You just have to be a caring person…We want all community members to be gatekeepers so that they can intervene when they see something wrong…or find someone to intervene.”
The national Crisis Text Line can be accessed by texting to 741741.
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Sharla Moody is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing from Gallipolis, Ohio. She is a graduate of River Valley High School and currently attends Yale University.