RICHFIELD — Jim Healy hesitated about sharing his family's loss publicly, but during National Suicide Prevention Week, he decided if being a little uncomfortable could save someone's life it was worth it.
The village administrator for Richfield relived the day he lost his brother-in-law, Jimmy Tazioli, to suicide. It happened the same day Healy's wife gave birth to their third child.
"I asked him if you wanted to hold him. He looked me straight in the eye and said, 'No, that’s fine. I’ll do it another time.' (He) gave him a little rub and walked away. Didn’t think anything of it," said Healy.
Healy shared the story on the village Facebook page, and it prompted people to share their support for his family and how they have been impacted by suicide.
Healy said Jimmy was funny, personable, reliable, and a good magician who liked to entertain.
"I’m grateful because the last thing I got to say to him was that I loved him and that I was happy he made a trip to come up and spend time," said Healy.
Healy is not alone in his pain.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the suicide rate among Wisconsin residents rose 40% between 2000 and 2017. The state reported 918 Wisconsin residents died by suicide in 2017.
Deeatra Kajfosz, founder and executive director of LiFE OF HOPE in West Bend, said the openness that Healy showed is an important part of helping others.
"The dialogue that took place today is a perfect example of how when we break our silence and we become authentically courageous we find a community that surrounds us with support," said Kajfosz.
LiFE OF HOPE raises awareness about suicide prevention and helps provide resources to people affected by suicide.
Kajfosz hopes people watching or reading this story will make the effort to learn.
"Get curious. Open your mind. Open your voice and use it to advocate for one another. Knowledge is power, but when we share that knowledge it becomes empowerment. The greatest gift we can give one another is a little piece of ourselves to say it’s OK not to be OK, and I’m here to support you," said Kajfosz.
Since Jimmy's death, Healy had a bench built as a tribute. It's a place where their family can come together and keep Jimmy's memory alive.
"If somebody can learn from our experience and our past saves somebody’s future, what greater of a benefit could that be," said Healy.
If you or someone you know needs help, you can reach out to the lifeofhopeproject.org. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. The hotline is available 24 hours a day.