After suicide, family takes on silent killer

Dan Babich’s brother initiates awareness campaign


Dan Babich’s family didn’t see any of the signs a suicidal person might display before he took his own life at the Valley Stream deli he owned on May 1. He was 25.

“He was one of the more outgoing people you could probably meet,” said his 23-year-old brother, Michael. “Good-looking kid, extremely hard worker … Probably working anywhere from 80 to 100 hours per week.”

Dan was in good spirits and talking about the future in the days before he died. He had recently started a softball team and had an appointment to get a tattoo the next week. There were no signs of depression, no talk of not wanting to live or giving away of his possessions. He was so popular at Malverne’s Uva Rossa Wine Bar, where he worked as a bartender, that customers would call ahead to see if he was in, Michael said.

Six months after Dan’s death, his mother and brother sat with the Herald in their Franklin Square home and spoke thoughtfully about their tragedy, and how they are reacting to it. That reaction was immediate, said his mother, Judi Aquila.

“This is the most confusing thing Michael and I have ever faced,” she said. “We decided in the hospital that we needed to do something.”

They started to learn about suicide — its prevalence among young people, the second leading cause of death for those 15 to 24, with an average of 105 Americans dying by suicide every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Michael and his mother found support groups in the area, and talked to others who had lost relatives, and to people who had survived their own attempts.

“There’s a stigma attached to it that Michael and I decided from the very beginning that we were not gonna buy into,” Aquila said. “People have a lot of anger — they pass a lot of judgment on somebody who dies by suicide, but we live by the creed that Daniel was not trying to hurt anybody. He was trying to end his pain. A lot of people still don’t get that.”

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