Suicide prevention program scheduled

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Goodstein, 20, seemed to have everything going for him - he was popular, athletic, intelligent - and even though he was stressed out about a course at college, no one would have ever suspected that he would kill himself. But he took his own life on Sept. 9, 1999.

"If it happened to Jonathan, it could happen to anyone," said his mother, Michele. She said that for about two days before her son killed himself, he acted out of the ordinary, but no one thought anything of it.

Since then the Goodstein family has been spreading the word about suicide prevention and teaching others about the potential warning signs.

On Wednesday, May 11, at 7:30 p.m., at the Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library, 1125 Broadway in Hewlett, the Peninsula Counseling Center (PCC) in Woodmere and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) are hosting a special community meeting on the subject. The meeting will feature a new unscripted 26-minute film, "The Truth about Suicide: Real Stories of Depression in College." The guest speakers will be Michele Goodstein and Herb Ruben, PCC's executive director. Legislator Jeff Toback (D-Long Beach) will co-host the event. There will be no admission charge.

The Goodstein family helped fund the film, which has been sent to colleges, high schools and medical health professionals across the country. It involves real students and their stories of depression and attempts at suicide, and details how friends and family can look for warning signs.

"Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers," said Ruben. "Most vulnerable are young people who feel a sense of dislocation and isolation during their college years. It is crucial to recognize signs of depression, especially those in the emotionally turbulent freshman year. The good news is that depression is a treatable illness and that this tragic loss of life can be prevented."

Ruben is expected to provide an overview of the services available at PCC for those who are struggling with thoughts of suicide or for family and friends who are survivors.

A similar community meeting was held in Bellmore on April 12, with the help of the Long Island Crisis Center, which drew about 70 residents. A total of five community meetings to raise awareness of suicide will be held in Nassau and Suffolk counties, culminating in the second annual "Out of the Darkness" 5K community walk at Old Westbury Gardens on Sunday, Sept. 25.

"I'm hoping that we get at least 100 people [on May 11] to raise awareness about suicide," said Dale Camhi of East Rockaway, a longtime friend of the Goodsteins and an area director of the AFSP. "Unfortunately, suicide knows no boundaries, gender-wise, religion-wise, socio-economic-wise."

If the film had been shown to those who knew Jonathan Goodstein, they would have recognized that he was in trouble, Camhi and Goodstein's mother said. "There were clear signs two days before he died," said Goodstein.

"One of Jonathan's friends said had he seen the film, he would have had the knowledge to pick up on something," Camhi said.

Camhi added that for the May 11 program, organizers are targeting juniors and seniors in high school and their parents. "There's a lot of stress on kids these days," she said.

Goodstein said, "It's for individuals at risk, and how peers can help their peers, and what they should specifically be looking out for.

"This is not only for a kid with a drug or alcohol problem," she added. "We want to get the message across for them to look out for their friends."

Goodstein said that the stresses on students today are enormous. "The stresses are much greater than when we grew up," she said. "We can't be there for them when they're at college."

Parents of high school juniors and seniors, college students, teachers, guidance counselors and health professionals are urged to attend the May 11 meeting. Further information is available by calling Peninsula Counseling Center at (516) 569-6600 or Camhi at (516) 569-1501.

Comments about this story? JLipton@liherald.com or (516) 569-4000 ext. 204.