When snow falls, the steep slope at 57th and Brookside, known for decades as Suicide Hill, is a favorite place for metro area kids to go sledding, but one neighborhood resident wants to change the name.
Alyvia Elliott lives at the bottom of that hill. She lost her husband to suicide in April.
As she thought about all the light references that people make when talking about suicide, the sledding hill’s nickname took on greater meaning.
“We make something fun of something that is the complete opposite spectrum of fun,” Elliott said.
Elliott participated in a suicide survivors walk at Loose Park on Sunday as part of her mission to have more people aware of the language used to describing a devastating event in a family’s life.
“Being here today is shocking to me. I’m like all these people must … and then it dawned on me a few minutes ago, oh wait, I’m one of these people,” Elliott said.
Elliott is a nurse, a mother of three, and she works in a middle school and has done suicide prevention. But this isn’t a reality she anticipated.
“One of my jobs is to help people understand suicide. I did not understand suicide at all,” Elliott said.
Elliott said that they have lived there nine years and have always called it Suicide Hill, but that if you look at Google Maps, it is referred to as Brookside Hill.
She has received huge support on Nextdoor, a social networking app for neighborhoods. Elliott said she hopes this leads to more parents having necessary discussions with their children about suicide.
Mickey and Bonnie Swade founded the Suicide Awareness Survivors Support group after losing their son to suicide. This year was the group's 16th Annual Remembrance Walk, which around 400 people attended.
Swade says their organization has the same objective as Elliott – to raise awareness on the impact of suicide. The group gives money to preventive services groups and suicide survivor groups. Last year they raised about $20,000 through the walk and other donations.
Swade said there still remains a bit of confusion and controversy about how one labels suicide, which impacts how the survivors heal.
“If someone dies of cancer or a car accident, you know what it is, but with suicide, it isn’t the same,” Swade said. “You never get over it, you get through it.”
If you need immediate help for yourself or someone else, call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Michelle Tyrene Johnson is a reporter at KCUR 89.3 and part of the public radio collaborative Sharing America, covering the intersection of race, identity and culture. This initiative, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, includes reporters in Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri; Hartford, Connecticut; and Portland, Oregon. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.