MOUNT VERNON — A speaker offering hope about suicide prevention and healing for those bereaved by suicide, spoke before a large crowd at Mount Vernon Nazarene University on Tuesday evening, only hours after MVNU student Michael Gehrett was laid to rest after taking his own life last week.
Trudy Singletary of the Social Work Department at MVNU tearfully told the audience, which included MVNU students, local counselors and social workers, and interested members of the community, that when Dr. Michelle Linn-Gust was first invited to come speak about the topic of suicide over a year ago, no one could have ever imagined the timing her message would have.
“We began planning this 18 months ago, and I never thought it would happen on the day we laid to rest a student from MVNU,” Singletary said.
“Our campus is hurting, and I know many of you are hurting,” she said.
Linn-Gust, who travels across the country talking with people about suicide prevention and recovery for those left behind, told the group she believed the timing was meaningful.
Originally scheduled for February, the dates for Linn-Gust’s visit were moved to this week earlier this year.
“I’m a strong believer that things happen for a reason, and I now know what that reason is,” she said.
Having lost her younger sister, Denise, over 17 years ago to suicide, Linn-Gust tells as many people as she can, the story of how after struggling with bulimia, depression, and being sexually assaulted, her sister walked in front of a train two months before graduating from high school. She was 17 years old.
“When she did, she completely altered my life,” Linn-Gust said.
“We were the two sent to the back of the station wagon,” Linn-Gust said of the sister, three years her junior, whom she shared a room with for 10 years.
“She was a very sensitive kid — I think she couldn’t cope with all she was dealing with,” she explained.