When Jeremy Brittain’s sister attempted to end her life in 2009, the Trumbull resident took three weeks off of work to cope.
“I didn’t want to talk about it,” he said.
Looking back on the nearly two years that have passed and his sister’s path to recovery, Brittain has realized the importance of talking about it.
The more he talks to people, Brittain said, the more people he finds who have a similar story, and who want to share their experiences.
That is one of the reasons Brittain, with the support of his wife Tanya, started SPOKES, or Suicide Prevention: Our Knowledge Erases Stigma.
“We want to encourage people to talk about it,” the former New Canaanite said. “We’re trying to erase the stigmas associated with suicide and depression; not to hide behind the stigma.”
When Brittain first began formulating the idea that would become SPOKES, he searched for bike rides to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Finding none, he decided to start his own.
“I personally love to do cycling,” Brittain, who will be riding the 50-mile route, said. “I think that for fundraising, if there’s more of a challenge, more people will want to donate.”
It sure seems like that’s the case. Last fall, SPOKES hosted its . This year, the group hopes to reach a $40,000 goal through its Oct. 2 bike ride to benefit the AFSP’s Connecticut chapter. So far, participants have fundraised more than $22,000.
“We’re seeing almost a $1,000 per day increase in donations,” Brittain said.
Forty-two riders came together in 2010 for the ride. To date, 38 people have signed up for this year’s ride. Brittain said he’d like to see closer to 50 or 60 riders, but he is pleased with the current mix of participants.
Many of the people who signed up are strangers to Brittain, but are forever linked to him in their similar brushes with suicide and depression.
“I’m most pleased with seeing the growth beyond my friends and family, to people we don’t know, who see posters and signs and are joining us,” he said. “These people have their own stories – they’ve lost a mother, a sister, a friend.”
The SPOKES donation site overflows with stories posted by riders participating in memory or support of family and friends who battled with depression and suicide.
That is why it is fitting for this year’s proceeds will go toward the Connecticut chapter. “We are benefiting those affected by suicide in our own backyard.”
Brittain hopes the future will hold an expansion for SPOKES. He is in talks with AFSP members to conduct rides in two or three other cities for 2012.
As for Sarah – who inspired Brittian to take on this endeavor – Brittain said she has come a long way since first recovering from her suicide attempt.
“From a year ago, she’s quite a bit different,” he said. Sarah began to regain her ability to read, something she’s always loved to do, Brittain said. She had some issues with brain/eye communication earlier in her recovery, but has progressed from reading small paragraphs at a time, to reading large print books and now to normal print novels with no problem, he said.
The siblings went kayaking recently, something Brittain said Sarah always wanted to do. “That is a pretty significant improvement,” he said.
While Sarah continues to progress, residents can help to further SPOKES and AFSP’s mission to research, educate and prevent suicide.
This year’s ride will take place Sunday, Oct. 2 at 8 a.m. and will start at Brick Walk, 1215 Post Road, in Fairfield. Those interested can sign up for a 12-, 25- or 50-mile route. Participants have until Dec. 2 to turn in fundraising minimums, so riders can register up to and including the day of the event. Prizes will be given on Oct. 2 to the three highest fundraisers.