Michigan native set to bike for suicide prevention
- Article by: ALLISON BATDORFF
- Associated Press
- August 22, 2014 - 3:15 AM
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Mike Famiano will wheel his 10-year Allez bicycle out of his Wisconsin garage. He'll make a final check — fiddling, strapping, cinching — fasten his helmet and hit the road. This 1,100 mile circumnavigation around Lake Michigan forms a physical widening of the Traverse City native's circle of caring.
Because it's not enough to assume everyone is OK. Famiano already knows we're not.
His brother, Nick, killed himself in 2008. He was 34. His dad, Philip, killed himself in 2010. He was 59.
"My brother put on a good front and nobody saw it coming. My dad put on a good front, too," Famiano told the Traverse City Record-Eagle ( http://bit.ly/1m214w9 ). "You just never know what is going on in another person's head, and if that's the case, are we safe assuming that everyone is OK when they say they are?
"As far as the human brain goes, there's so much we don't know. We're only ankle deep in that sea. Unfortunately for us, my family, we learned this the hard way."
Famiano starts pedaling Aug. 23, and will log 100 miles per day — through the Upper Peninsula, down through Michigan, Indiana and Illinois and back to his Dodgeville, Wisconsin, garage — to raise money for the Association of Suicide Prevention.
He hopes to reach Traverse City on Aug. 27 for a "hot meal" and "laundry break" with his mom, Nancy Gabriel. He'll carry pamphlets and handouts. But mainly, Famiano wants to connect, telling people about about his dad and brother and why he's riding.
"I hope to talk to people and really spread the word about why I'm doing this," Famiano said. "Even if I don't raise a dime I'll still consider it a success if I can communicate with a couple of people."
Famiano's sister Regina recently completed her fourth "Out of Darkness" walk for the same organization, as the suicides spurred everyone in the family into a deeper awareness of the struggles of others, Famiano said.
"If there was a bright lining to my brother's suicide, it was that it opened our eyes to the not only to the bigger picture, but to seeing that there's more to life than selfish desires. That it's really about doing something for other people."
The general lack of knowledge, plus the stigma linking "weakness" to mental illness, means that people are walking around, contemplating suicide without talking to anyone, Famiano said.
Suicide is a top 10 leading cause of death in the United States; it's in the top five for teens 12 to 19. No one "wears a sign around their neck" announcing suicidal intention, he said.
"The symptoms aren't obvious. It's tricky. You can't pick someone out in a crowd who is suffering," Famiano said. "It really requires a lot of communication to make sure. You have to check on people, because, in assuming someone is OK, you're risking a lot."
Famiano, 42, jokes about the physical toll the self-supported trip will take. But he, now a technical trainer for a software company outside Madison, Wisconsin, husband, and father to three children, wants to do his part, he said.
"I'm not a professional psychologist, or medical professional, but I can do what I can do — which is to make sure that the people around me know that they're valuable, that they're valued, that they're superheroes. And if they choose to take their own life, they are taking something great and extraordinary from the world if they choose to leave it. And I don't want to stand by and watch this happen."
This is an AP Member Exchange shared by the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
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