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by Jessica Carreras
When Julie Boledovich lost her mom to suicide in 2005 after a three-year battle with schizophrenia, she could have spent years being in pain, not understanding what happened and feeling alone. Instead, her and her three siblings wasted no time making sure that their mother’s death was not in vain – and now they want to reach out to youth and the LGBT community.
On 10 a.m. May 2, the Boledovich family’s organization, Mind Over Matter, will host their fourth annual 5K race in Royal Oak’s Starr Jaycee Park to raise awareness about mental health issues and suicide. Over the past three years, they have raised over $40,000 for mental health research and suicide prevention efforts in the state, and this year they hope to continue the trend, raising funds for the University of Michigan Depression Center and teen suicide education non-profit NoResolve.
Julie Boledovich has no doubt that the issue, and the funds raised from the race, are of the utmost importance to the LGBT community.
“One of the statistics that I think is especially significant is that suicide is such a problem among young people,” she said. “It’s the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24 year olds and the LGBT community is nine times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, and so trying to raise awareness and let people know that help is available is really important, especially to our youth.”
That’s where NoResolve comes in. Though in the past, Boledovich said MOM’s efforts went mostly to U of M’s Depression Center, she thought NoResolve was a perfect way to move some of their help into the youth arena.
Even though her mom was 48 years old when she committed suicide, Boledovich said she understands that more commonly, deaths and attempts are much higher for youth. So when NoResolve contacted her, she was eager to help. “I’m really excited to help roll out their program in Oakland County and move from there, west,” Boledovich said of NoResolve. “…they are going into high schools and doing assembly-style presentations to the students where they’re performing music. The founder actually lost his father to suicide and…he turned to drugs and alcohol. Eventually, he got help and wanted to try to lead people down the right path. He’s really good at talking to the kids.”
Which, Boledovich recognizes, can be especially important to LGBT youth, who may struggle with coming out, being bullied and a lack of acceptance or understanding from their families and peers. A recent report released by the Gay and Lesbian Straight Education Network suggests that nine out of 10 Michigan LGBT youth have experienced verbal harassment in the past year because of their sexual orientation. Almost half of the 217 students surveyed said they had been physically harassed, while a third said they had been assaulted. With no recourse for bullies in many schools and no anti-bullying law to protect them, many of these students become depressed. Some even turn to suicide.
Luckily, organizations like MOM recognize the need for not only increased research and help for youth and adults with mental health problems, but also the need for increased dialogue within communities. “That’s one of the reasons that we chose to have a residential road race versus one that went through businesses or right through downtown,” Boledovich said of the race route. “We wanted people to come out, support the race, cheer people on and actually talk to their neighbors about this otherwise very taboo subject and realize that there are a lot of people who are impacted by mental illness and suicide.”
And hopefully, though nothing can bring her mom back, it will help other families from experiencing the hurt of losing a loved one.
“There’s always the regret we have that we didn’t see this coming with my mom, but that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing,” Boledovich said. “I think we sort of had our blinders on and thought that could never happen to us. But then it did, and it really rocked our world. We knew that we didn’t just want to wallow in our pain. We wanted to do something about it and really try to educate people about it and get the word out and let people know that they’re not alone and that resources are available.”
“(Suicide is) 100 percent preventable,” she added, “and knowledge and education are the first step.”
For more information about Mind over Matter, visit http://www.mindovermatterrace.org. Online registration is $20 for youth and $25 for adults and ends Thursday. Registration on the day of the race is $5 more. All registrants will receive a T-shirt and will be entered to win door prizes. Strollers and pets are welcome.