Suicide survivors reach out to help

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In their brief lifetimes, Eric Marchant and Joe Manoukian were worlds apart.

At 13, Eric was a shy, middle-school student struggling with adolescence and facing teasing and harassment from his classmates on an almost daily basis.

On the outside, Joe Manoukian appeared to have it all at age 27 -- good looks, athletic ability that drew the attention of the National Football League and a little boy he adored.

But the world proved to be too much for Eric and Joe.

On June 22, 1998 -- the day after Father's Day -- Eric hanged himself at home. Joe hanged himself in a Douglas County Jail cell on May 26, 2001 -- the day before his niece's first birthday. He was taken off life support on May 28.

These young men never met, but the people they left behind are forming a support group in Carson Valley to help family, friends, and co-workers of others who died by suicide deal with the loss, grief and the other emotions that accompany such a sudden death.

Shortly after Eric died, Cindy Marchant went to a suicide survivors' meeting in Reno.

"It was unlike anything I ever felt before," she said. "This horrible thing that had happened to us had happened to all these other people, too."

Marchant and Jacquie Manoukian Mott, Joe's sister, hope to extend the fellowship and understanding to others who have lost friends and family to suicide.

"This is not a cure for our grief," Mott said. "We hope to offer people a place to deal with it."

Both women have attended the suicide survivors' support group in Reno, and their goal is to provide the same outreach to people locally.

"It's a five-hour commitment by the time you drive to Reno and back and stay for the meeting," Mott said.

She said she attended regularly through September, but stopped going because of weather and other conflicts.

"I really miss it," she said. "After missing a couple of meetings, I was feeling pretty closed off."

Mott and Marchant don't know what to expect at their first meeting, April 1 at the Douglas County Engine Co. station at Fifth Street and Highway 395 in Minden. They plan to meet the first and third Monday of every month from 6 to 8 p.m.

"We don't have a set agenda," Marchant said. "There is no fee, no donations and people are invited to stop by for the whole meeting or just awhile. You can be a fly on the wall, you don't have to say anything. I am sure I just bawled and bawled through my first few meetings, but this is a place where it's OK to do that, where people will understand what you're going through."

She said the meetings are open to anyone age 16 and older. If there is interest, she and Mott would be willing to start a youth group.

Their loved ones' stories point out how suicide can strike in any family.

Joe was a gifted athlete, a Douglas High School football standout and he set field-goal records at his college in California. He had been invited to try out for the National Football League.

"You would look at Joe and think he had everything," Mott said. "When we were growing up and before he got married, all my girlfriends wanted to date him. But he was very depressed and insecure. He told me he hated to get up in the morning, to bend down to tie his shoes."

Her brother's problems were also compounded by drug use, and he started to get in trouble. He had been sentenced May 18 to serve six months in Douglas County jail for a probation violation stemming from a bad check charge.

Mott was the last person to speak with Joe. He called her from jail in the midst of her preparations for 30 guests who were to attend her daughter Hannah's first birthday party. She asked him to call her back after the party so she could devote her attention to him. Fifteen minutes later, he hanged himself with a bed sheet.

"He did this on Hannah's birthday," she said. "This year it's going to be a happy, sad day, but I guess we'll figure out how to get through that. In some ways it is good, because I have her birthday to concentrate on, not just the reminder that this is the day Joe hanged himself."

With the support group, Marchant and Mott hope to offer a place where suicide survivors can safely share their feelings.

"People ask me how I am doing and, depending on who it is, I usually say, `Fine,'" Marchant said, "but what I sometimes want to say is, `Do you have an hour? I would really like to tell you.'"

Mott agreed.

"I am saying, `Fine,'" but I am thinking to myself, `Oh, God, how can I get through this,'" she said. "He was my little brother. Joe and I were supposed to grow old together. Right now, I am just thinking about how much I miss him."

Manoukian and Mott see the support group as a way to honor their loved ones' lives.

"We both believe that there is good that can come out of this," Marchant said.

For information, Mott can be reached at 783-8529 and Marchant at 782-6523.


What: Suicide Survivors' Support Group

When: 6 to 8 p.m., first and third Mondays of the month; first meeting April 1

Where: Douglas County Engine Co. meeting room, corner of Highway 395 and Fifth Street, Minden

Information: Cindy Marchant, 782-6523; Jacquie Manoukian Mott, 783-8529


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