Grieving Omaha family advocates for more suicide prevention measures

A mourning family is urging for more suicide prevention
Published: Jul. 12, 2022 at 6:55 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - To outlive a child is one of the worst experiences a parent can go through, and now one Omaha family must carry on without their beloved 20-year-old Gracie Jaimes.

This family isn’t alone. Thousands across the nation, every year, mourn the loss of loved ones who die by suicide.

Gracie’s body was recently found and identified after she jumped off of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge. She left behind two young boys, and her death was a surprise to loved ones.

“She was always happy. She loved her kids. She loved my girls,” said her aunt, Erika Martinez.

Her uncle remembered her similarly: “She was always happy, happy, smiling.”

Sunday, the family held a memorial to celebrate Gracie’s life, a banquet hall of friends and family, living in remembrance of their memories of her. Laced in the fabric of their togetherness is regret that this may have been preventable. Experts say that suicidal thoughts and behaviors can be reduced with proper mental health support and treatment.

“It breaks my heart she didn’t come to me,” said her aunt.

Her best friend and the godmother of her children also expressed regret.

“I wish she would’ve called me. She called me that morning, and I wish I would’ve just stayed on the phone,” said Justine Pinkins.

Gracie’s family is not alone. In Nebraska, death by suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10-24.

There are many reasons for that, according to the manager of the psychiatric emergency services at Nebraska Medicine.

“Our brains aren’t done developing yet when we’re that age. And I think there are lots of pressures that our young folks have that maybe weren’t the same as you had or certainly not the same that I had, where there are lots of influence from the outside,” said Jennifer Sparrock, a licensed clinical social worker.

In mourning, one of Gracie’s brothers said he returned to the bridge and thought of doing the same. That’s why her family, especially Gracie’s mother, hopes some restrictions are added to the bridge, like safety nets or higher barriers.

Sparrock, who is also on the board of directors of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Nebraska chapter. And she supports efforts that help restrict or deter suicide attempts.

“We know they work. In communities where they have done that, they have seen a reduction in attempts and people who have died by suicide because of those kinds of restrictions that are in place,” Sparrock said.

More help on the way

One suicide prevention measure launching this week is 988. Like 911, it’s an easy-to-remember number for mental health services. It replaces the current suicide prevention lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. 988 callers are directed to trained responders based right out of Omaha.

Gov. Pete Ricketts unveiled more details about 988 during a news conference on Wednesday:

Introducing 988: New dialing code for Suicide Prevention Lifeline

The new 988 dialing code launches July 16 and will connect people directly to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Gov. Pete Ricketts will share more details on how the system works

Posted by 6 News WOWT on Wednesday, July 13, 2022

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