S.H.Y.A.A. founder Zach Ricker uses his organization to spread awareness on mental health, suicide, and depression. (Photo courtesy of Zach Ricker)
S.H.Y.A.A. founder Zach Ricker uses his organization to spread awareness on mental health, suicide, and depression. (Photo courtesy of Zach Ricker)
DELPHOS — Each September, many organizations and individuals speak out about suicide for National Suicide Awareness Month. Specifically, today is National Suicide Awareness Day. For over a year now, 2012 Delphos Jefferson graduate Zach Ricker has been speaking out using his story to help others struggling with thoughts of depression and suicide through his organization S.H.Y.A.A. (Seek Help, You Aren’t Alone).

Ricker began S.H.Y.A.A. in May 2017 in a time where the Delphos community was suffering from loss after loss of teens in the community committing suicide. Ricker, who had attempted suicide and continually struggled (and still struggles) with depression and suicidal thoughts, decided it was time for him to use his story to prevent those types of deaths.

Ricker’s goal when starting S.H.Y.A.A. was to get a conversation going about mental health, depression, and suicide. In the last year, he said he has noticed that the organization has gotten local people talking and thinking about mental health.

“The biggest thing I’ve seen with this organization is the amount of people that will reach out and ask about mental health, whether it be themselves or a family member,” said Ricker. “The biggest focus right now is talking about it and getting to the point where people realize it’s a conversation you can have and not to be afraid to have it.”

Ricker said his next step with the organization is to get a location in Delphos where people can come in and receive help and resources.

“The overall goal is to have resources and a place where someone can go if they need to go talk or vent or if they don’t know where to start,” said Ricker. “People may not know where to start at all, and I feel like the organization and myself can help them take that first step.”

Ricker said those suffering from mental illness might not feel comfortable starting a conversation with friends or family and that having a facility could provide a safe place for people to seek help.

Ricker does, however, suggest that friends and family who notice that someone is struggling reach out to the individual.

“The first thing is to be straightforward about it,” said Ricker. “People think that if you bring up suicide to somebody that you’re putting those thoughts in their head, but really it’s the complete opposite. If somebody is at that point and you’re willing to reach out about that, they are going to trust you and see that you care.”

“The first step is to create that conversation,” continued Ricker who said that a person struggling with mental health might have a hard time bringing their thoughts up for fear of disappointing or burdening those around them.

Ricker then suggests that those struggling seek help from a medical professional.

“The overall goal of the organization is bringing awareness to mental health and creating the conversation and being that middleman between your personal life and your family and getting you the resources to get professional help,” said Ricker. “I want to help and reach as many people as possible.”

Ricker often hears that by sharing his story he may be helping a stranger deal with their own struggles. He said hearing this is the reason he started the organization.

“I feel like I’ve gone through this in order to help someone else,” said Ricker. “I feel like I have the responsibility to share my story, and I’m at a point in my life and my mental health that I’m able to put myself out there and know that it’s helping other people.”

Looking forward to next year, Ricker is already deciding what events will be planned for the organization in 2019 to continue to bring awareness to the mental health, depression, and suicide.

To find more information on S.H.Y.A.A. and Ricker’s story, visit www.shydoublea.com.

According to the Center for Disease Control, each year nearly 45,000 Americans die by suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.