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HARTSDALE – This September, Westchester County is recognizing National Suicide Prevention Month with the creation of a memorial for those who have ended their lives by suicide in Westchester County. The Healing Garden at Ridge Road Park in Hartsdale will help build awareness of suicide prevention, and create a permanent place for reflection for family members and loved ones of those who ended their lives by suicide. The Healing Garden is the result of a planning committee Latimer appointed in 2021 to provide him with recommendations for memorial site, and is introduced in partnership with the Westchester County Departments of Community Mental Health (DCMH), Parks, Recreation and Conservation, NAMI Westchester, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).
Latimer said, “I am very proud that we will soon be placing the first plant in the ground for The Healing Garden at Ridge Road Park – the result of a promise we made to people who are grieving the loss of a loved one. We wanted to create a peaceful site for reflection for family members and friends, and help address the stigma that is often attached to suicide. I hope that when a survivor of suicide is having a difficult day, they come to this beautiful space at Ridge Road Park and seek comfort and solace in their surroundings. Let this garden help people to ‘heal,’ and rekindle happy memories while they are here.”
The Healing Garden at Ridge Road Park will consist of a variety of trees, pathway and benches in a circular shape. The Garden will be situated within a serene setting of the park, and is intended as a gathering place for family, friends and the public to contemplate and reflect on those who have been lost to suicide, and for the education and awareness of suicide prevention.
Commissioner of DCMH Michael Orth said, “We are greatly appreciative of County Executive Latimer’s commitment to Suicide Awareness and Prevention efforts, and for making mental health a top priority for our County. It has been a true honor working with our planning committee and offering a place for family and friends to gather and honor their loved ones, and help to stop the stigma of suicide and mental illness.”
Commissioner of the Department of Parks, Recreation & Conservation Kathy O’Connor said, “Ridge Road Park in Hartsdale is the perfect setting for The Healing Garden, as it is centrally located in Westchester and free to access all year round. The 236-acre park in our beautiful parks system is ideal for visits by families and friends, and is also the site of NAMI’s annual mental health walk. We hope it will be utilized by anyone who is grieving, and needs a tranquil place to heal from loss.”
Chairwoman of the Westchester County Board of Legislators Catherine Borgia said, “We as a society are still learning how to speak openly about suicide and the preventative measures we can take to help those battling depression. Let this memorial be a beacon of hope for those struggling and a place of remembrance for those whom we’ve lost. It will be a physical reminder that no one should suffer alone, grieve alone, or feel alone because in a County like Westchester, you will never truly be alone.”
Executive Director of NAMI Westchester Marie Considine said, “Family members and friends who mourn and miss a loved one who has died by suicide often have nowhere to go to express their feelings of loss and love. Dedicating a Healing Garden at Ridge Road Park to honor those Westchester residents who have lost their lives to suicide will provide a public outdoor space for people to remember and reflect, while it will provide support, hope and awareness.”
Hudson Valley/Westchester Area Director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Maria Idoni said, “Dealing with the loss of a loved one is a challenge that
nearly everyone will experience during his or her lifetime. Having a Healing Garden to go to gives you a quiet place to remember your loved one. The Garden will serve to rekindle happy memories, not just to grieve.”
Latimer’s planning committee consisted of appointed members including survivors, advocates of suicide prevention and awareness efforts, and leadership from County Departments.