RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Victoria Bennis knows all too well the void suicide leaves behind for the victim's loved ones after her 16-year-old brother, John, took his own life five years ago.
"Unfortunately, we never saw it coming," she recalled. "It's not even the act of suicide. It's that he's gone and I just miss him and the majority of my life will be spent without him, and that's just really sad."
However, Bennis has taken that grief and channeled it into something productive, a nonprofit organization in Wake County called Save a Life. She's the co-founder, along with another local woman who lost her teenage son to suicide. Together, they're taking their message of awareness and prevention to schools, youth groups, and area civic groups.
"There is such a stigma associated with mental illness and so many teens are afraid to ask for help. And there needs to be an organization where they can reach out and they know, they're educated on what to look out for or what to do if they suspect a friend or another classmate or somebody needs help," she explained.
That includes warning signs such as an interest in death, thoughts of harming themselves, giving away personal possessions, changes in activity such as a drop in grades, or disinterest in activities they previously enjoyed.
"Listen to them, really take them seriously and get them to that appropriate help whether it's a faculty member, a counselor, or a parent. Get them to the help that they need and keep them safe," Bennis advised.
Save a Life also helps connects teens to counseling, even paying for services for those who can't afford it. To fund this and continue their efforts, they count on various fundraisers such as annual 5k races and a special gala taking place this weekend. This weekend's event takes place this Saturday at Goelz Plaza Banquet and Conference Center in Morrisville starting at 7 p.m. It's open to the public, and is meant to be a fun way to raise money while also thanking the supporters who have made their efforts possible the past four years.
"When you can help others, it really helps. It helps the grieving process and it helps you to move on," Bennis said. "I think even if we've saved one child's life, that's more than enough for me."
To buy tickets to this Saturday's event:
For more on Save a Life:
Report a Typo
Local women channel their own personal loss to try and save other teens from suicide