SCARSDALE, N.Y. - When Christie Civetta's step-father committed suicide two days after Christmas 2006, she was in her freshman year at Scarsdale High School. The timing, and the nature of her step-father's death, compounded the grief of losing a parent.
"It's a very public way to pass," Civetta said in a phone interview from Boston, where she is a sophomore at Northeastern University. "It was definitely difficult. It was life-changing for me and for my family. It made it very difficult because of the publicity. It was very sad, but we moved forward as a family, and we grew stronger."
Civetta used that strength to help others who have experienced a similar loss. For the past three or four years, she said, she has been involved in helping to raise awareness for suicide prevention. Wednesday, she will travel to New York City, where she will be honored for her work by Suicide Prevention International at its Life Lines luncheon.
At the luncheon, SPI and the Gary Sinise Foundation will announce collaboration to assist veterans who suffer from the physical and psychological aftermath of combat.
Civetta is one of three people being honored Wednesday. She will receive SPI's Survivors Award for her accomplishments in raising suicide awareness among young people and gaining corporate support for SPI's youth suicide prevention initiatives.
Herbert Hendin, M.D., CEO of Suicide Prevention International and a clinical professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College in Valhalla, will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to suicide awareness and prevention. Actor Gary Sinise, best known for his performances in the movies "Forrest Gump" and "Apollo 13" and TV's "CSI New York," will receive SPI's Humanitarian Award for his work and that of the Gary Sinise Foundation on behalf of combat veterans.
According to SPI, suicide is the eighth major cause of death worldwide. There are a million suicides a year and several hundred million people suffering from serious depression. Suicide is the second major cause of death for women aged 15-44 and the fourth major cause of death for men in that age group. In the U.S., suicide is now the second major cause of death among college students and the third major cause of death among those aged 15-24.
Civetta is planning to continue her work at Northeastern, she said Monday, in hopes of helping to reach that at-risk age group.
"I plan to create a campaign and organize a group on campus that will offer resources and support for people who have experienced this or who know someone who has been through it," she said.
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