A new nonprofit in Carroll County is looking to help those struggling with thoughts of suicide and mental illness through therapeutic art and friendship.
Judith Viers, founder of Share Hope Through Art, is working to coordinate art workshops and resource information on suicide prevention with local mental and behavioral treatment centers.
“Everyone has a story and I plan on sharing mine to those it may help,” she said.
In her lifetime, Viers has lost several people to suicide or overdose but since the COVID-19 pandemic, she lost two loved ones within a short period of time.
A devastating loss in February led her seek the support of family and friends also grieving the loss of a loved one through suicide.
“I can say in complete truth that hope, help and healing are needed” to get through the struggle, Viers said. “Share Hope Through Art is a means to spread hope and normalize the fact that hard times happen and that they get better when you take steps to improve them.”
Through this nonprofit, which is under the Community Foundation of Carroll County, Viers shares her own story to break the stigma around mental health struggles and treatment and uses art as advocacy in hopes of preventing more suicides.
She said her proudest moment is the day she was suicidal and in complete despair, but put herself in the hospital and chose life.
Viers is now developing workshops, but in the meantime, Share Hope through Art will be participating in several events, including the Hope and Healing Fair, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Out of the Darkness Community Walk and IGNITE Carroll 9.
The Out of the Darkness Walk will be held Sunday at Krimgold Park from 9 a.m. to noon.
In addition, the nonprofit will have a display in the Westminster Branch of the Carroll County Public Library throughout September in honor of Suicide Prevention Month. The display is filled with art pieces that encourage those who are struggling to be strong and seek help.
“Once COVID-19 is not an issue I’m hoping to do more group events with people making art together,” Viers said.
Sondra Groft, a Westminster resident and outreach coordinator for Carroll County nonprofits, has supported Viers in her mission since the beginning. Groft’s husband was a Marine veteran twice wounded in Vietnam who took his own life.
“Suicide prevention is very dear to me,” she said. Viers “has done an excellent job” reaching out to the community.
She said “there are things people in anguish can do” and Share Hope through Art is determined to make those mental health resources known.
Another supporter, Diane Brown, said she believes what Viers is doing is “very valuable” to the community.
“Judy has had some real challenges in her life and now she wants to help others who have gone through the same thing,” she said. “She wants to raise awareness for mental health in general but especially for suicide prevention.”
Brown described Viers as a people-person who can “really relate” to others.
“Last year taught us it’s difficult to be alone but life is worth living and there is help out there.” she said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 47,000 people died by suicide in 2019. Suicide remains the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34.
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Those looking for support can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or Maryland Crisis Connect at 211.