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Riley DiPillo with his mom Margaret Russo (left) and Massachusetts State Representative Lindsay Sabadosa.

Riley DiPillo with his mom Margaret Russo (left) and Massachusetts State Representative Lindsay Sabadosa.

The Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention held its annual Statehouse Day this week, highlighting the devastating impact of suicide on families and communities and thanking advocates for sharing their own heart-wrenching stories to bring attention to the issue in the Commonwealth.

Among the speakers was 17-year old Riley DiPillo who lost his older sister Laura to suicide five years ago when she was just 15.

“Not only did she stand out in the crowd, but she also left a lasting impact on all those that she touched,” DiPillo said. A student at Smith Academy in Hatfield, DePillo was presented with a Leadership Award for Suicide Prevention from the Coalition for starting a foundation supporting local social justice theater projects in memory of his sister.

Also recognized at the Statehouse event was WCVB-TV anchor Maria Stephanos who received the Leadership in Responsible Reporting Award.

WCVB-TV anchor Maria Stephanos receives her award from Massachusetts State Senator Paul Feeney.

WCVB-TV anchor Maria Stephanos receives her award from Massachusetts State Senator Paul Feeney.

“As a news anchor I know first-hand how important words are and in the case of suicide prevention they can really change lives, Stephanos told the audience. “I know that the right message can make an incredible difference. And thanks to the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention … I make it my mission to responsibly report on suicide prevention. This is about educating everybody about how doing it the right way can truly make a difference.”

Other award recipients included loss survivor and Metrowest advocate Barbara Brunzell of West Boylston, suicide attempt survivor Caitlin Caruso of Dracut, Senate President Karen Spilka, and the OneWIT program at Wentworth Institute of Technology which helps students learn about depression and assist friends who may be at risk of suicide.

DPH Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH said that in Massachusetts, 638 people were lost to suicide in 2016, a 35 percent increase since 1999. “This is not acceptable and shows we have a lot more work to do,” Bharel said.

To learn more about suicide and prevention, visit the DPH website here. If you or someone you love is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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