Zach Ricker, founder of S.H.Y. Double A or Seek Help, You Aren’t Alone, spoke of his struggles with depression and suicide in front of an auditorium full of Delphos community members in August. (DHI Media/File photo/ Kirsten Barnhart)
Zach Ricker, founder of S.H.Y. Double A or Seek Help, You Aren’t Alone, spoke of his struggles with depression and suicide in front of an auditorium full of Delphos community members in August. (DHI Media/File photo/ Kirsten Barnhart)

VAN WERT – In 2017 the importance of mental health was highlighted. The Van Wert area, specifically Delphos, saw the loss of many young lives to suicide, but out of the darkness were people willing to help.

In August, Zach Ricker spoke to a packed Jefferson Middle School auditorium. Gathered together were students, parents, and grandparents who had been affected by the losses of young lives in the Delphos community.

Ricker spoke of his struggles and what it was like to have suicidal thoughts and how he lives with them. He began Seek Help, You Arn't Alone or S.H.Y. Double A as a way to help those struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide.

Since then, Ricker has spoken at several area schools to promote the idea that “it’s okay to not be okay.” His goal is to erase the stigma behind mental illness and to make people aware of the issues.

 

Then, in September, readers were captivated by a story that Delphos native Ryan Wittler shared. Just days before Ricker spoke at Jefferson Middle School, Wittler drove his car into a tree at 93 miles per hour on purpose. His goal: to kill himself.

However, in an interview with The Times Bulletin, Wittler told his story from a different perspective. His suicide attempt was not one of depression or sadness, but according to Wittler, caused by injuries he suffered during his time in football.

Wittler spoke about Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) which is commonly found in athletes, military veterans, and those with a history of repetitive brain trauma. He stated that he believes he has CTE but that there is no way to find out for sure without an autopsy being performed on his brain.

His curiosity led him to attempt suicide.

In his story, Wittler stated that he did not remember the moments leading up to his wreck, but that he had non-stop head aches and wanted to know what was wrong with him.

Wittler told himself that the only way for his family to find out what was wrong, was for him to have an autopsy done on his brain.

Wittler lived to tell his story, but not without consequence. He suffered from a collapsed lung, broken bones in his back, three breaks in his femur, broken ribs, a broken foot, shattered bones, third degree burns on his arm and foot and much more. Wittler had to have a 14 inch rod placed through his femur with a screw by his hip and a screw by his knee. A plate was placed in his knee to hold everything together.

Wittler, like Ricker, shared his story in hopes that it would raise awareness on issues like suicide.

In the last four months, The Times Bulletin has addressed mental health issues and began the discussion on the topic of depression and suicide. As we go into 2018, we hope to continue that discussion.