Hoping to lead others Out of the Darkness

September 01, 2013|By MARIE GILBERT |
  • Julie Matheny, left, and Mary Ann Grandinett will walk in Out of the Darkness Community Walk to bring awareness to suicide prevention.
Kevin G. Gilbert /

On a clear day, the expanse of blue sky might seem endless.

But for 30-year-old Dominic, he often only saw dark clouds.

Creative, intelligent and handsome, the Maryland man was known for his sense of humor and loving nature.

He had traveled the world, was on the verge of finishing his doctorate and was devoted to his family and faith.

His life seemed so complete that few people realized that Dominic struggled for 10 years with depression and anxiety.

“He wanted to get well and tried every treatment recommended,” his aunt, Mary Ann Grandinett of Fairplay, said. “But each time, there was little or no success. Ultimately, he felt his only chance to have peace was through suicide.”

There were 38,364 people in the United States who died by suicide in 2010, the most recent statistical year, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. That’s more than twice the number of homicides and nearly 5,000 more deaths than occurred in traffic accidents.


And for every suicide, there are 25 non-fatal attempts — a staggering one million people who annually try to end their lives.

Despite those statistics, suicide is not part of most public discussions. There are privacy reasons and, often, a stigma.

But every day in this country, the same question is asked: Why?

In the past, Grandinett had been touch by suicide in a peripheral way — “the brother of a close friend, an acquaintance from work,” she said. “But I never imagined I would lose such an important person in my life in this way.”

Dominic was the only child of Grandinett’s brother and sister-in-law and seemed to have the world by the tail.

The young man had earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in physics and was about to complete his PhD in material science from the University of Maryland.

“He had a brilliant mind, not only in science, but also for the arts,” Grandinett said.  “He had traveled to Italy, India, China and Mexico; he was funny, devout in his faith and such a loving son and member of our family.”

But despite all this, he couldn’t escape the throes of depression.

Since his death this past March, Grandinett said Dominic’s suicide has continued to affect those who knew and loved him.

“In addition to the overwhelming sense of sadness and loss, there also are feelings of helplessness, disbelief, guilt, anger, regret and so much heartache for the hurt Dominic was feeling,” she said. “My family has been devastated by this and life just will never be the same. My children, too, are so sad and shocked to lose their cousin that they grew up with and love. There is a hole in our lives that cannot be filled.”

But Dominic’s death should not define his life, Grandinett said.  So, to honor his memory, she and other family members and friends will be participating in Out of the Darkness, a community walk that will be held on Saturday, Sept. 7, beginning at 8 a.m. in Hagerstown City Park.

“Shortly after Dominic’s funeral, I felt it was important to do something with some meaning,” Grandinett said, “even in a small way to help prevent another suicide, to help alleviate the pain of depression, and, mostly, to help eliminate the stigma attached to mental illness.”

Doing some research, she happened upon the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention that listed Out of the Darknesswalks around the country. When she saw it was being organized locally, she decided she wanted to be a participant.

“This event is so aptly named,” Grandinett said. “Mental illness is an illness just as cancer is and it kills just as cancer does. Through research, awareness and better treatment, lives can be saved. And there must be no shame in seeking help. That’s why I am walking, to truly bring this out of the darkness.”

This is the first year that Hagerstown will host an American Foundation for Suicide Prevention walk, said Julie Matheny, walk chairwoman.

While walks have been held over the past several years across Maryland, Matheny said she and other committee member decided it was time to bring more awareness to the western part of the state.

Matheny said she attended a volunteer meeting of the Maryland Chapter of the AFSP in January and was approached about chairing a local walk.

“Having lost my father 27 years ago to suicide, I wanted to bring awareness to the issue and make a positive impact,” she said. “It’s time to break the stigma and talk about mental illness and suicide and bring the issues out of the darkness. Suicide is preventable.”

Although suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., Matheny believes it’s still misunderstood and is hoping the upcoming walk will bring more awareness.

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