Support Groups Are Available to Help Deal With This Illness
The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) has declared September Suicide Prevention Month. Suicide has been labeled a mental health issue in this country. NAMI wants the public to become more knowledgeable about this illness.
The dictionary defines suicide as ”the act of intentionally causing one’s own death.” The World Health Organization reports that one person dies from suicide every 40 seconds.
On June 4, 2022, just one day before his 51st birthday, Canton resident Stanford Sullen became one of those statistics. Dr. Michelle Francis Sullen, his wife, was taken by surprise. “To my knowledge, he had never talked about suicide nor had he ever attempted this,” she said. According to Michelle, her spouse was a loving husband, father of two, and was employed by R&L Carriers (Kennesaw Freights) as a heavy-equipment operator.
“I saw nothing about him, nor our lives, to indicate that this would happen. He was kind-hearted and good-spirited. He gave freely to his family and his friends,” she said. “He was a man of God who began his day by reading a devotional, which he said set the tone for his day.”
Stanford also was a recovering drug addict who had struggled with substance abuse since his teen years in New Orleans, their hometown. Even after Stanford and Michelle married, his struggles continued. Their move from New Orleans to Canton didn’t help.
It was August 2005 when the couple and their 11-year-old son were forced to relocate to Georgia as Hurricane Katrina approached New Orleans. Their decision to remain here was dictated partly by the fact that Michelle was 5 months pregnant with their daughter.
After 25 years of addiction, on Feb. 11, 2014, her husband finally sought professional help and admitted himself into The Extension, a licensed long-term residential treatment program in Marietta. “When in treatment, he learned to embrace spiritual principles that transformed his life for the better,” she said. He had eight years of sobriety before his death.
Stanford completed the program and became an active member of The Extension Alumni Association. He devoted his time and resources to the recovery community. Through The Extension and HOW Place programs, the former addict mentored adolescents who were struggling with substance abuse.
He also was a mentor/sponsor for others who were recovering from an addiction. Stanford received many awards for his acts of service.
In hindsight, his widow said, “We were together for 34 years. I stayed with Stanford through his many years of addiction. Those were rough times, but he eventually got himself together. He had been drug-free for eight years at the time of his death.”
Thinking back to those days, she recalled: “I was definitely a co-dependent during his addiction. He always had a roof over his head, food to eat and a car to drive. I often wonder, if I had not been a co-dependent or if I had left him early in his addiction, would he have gotten clean sooner?”
Michelle, an educator, advises anyone who is thinking about suicide, who is worried about a loved one or who would like emotional support to call 988 (Suicide and Crisis Lifeline). She also recommends finding a support group on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website, afsp.org/find-a-support-group.
Support groups also exist for families. She encourages survivors to join one of these. Grief from suicide loss is different from all other types of grief. The goal of a Survivors of Suicide support group is to give survivors a place where they can be comfortable expressing themselves and find support, resources and hope in a judgment-free environment.
Michelle takes part in two support groups:
1. Canton SOS — Meets the second Tuesday of each month, 6:30-8 p.m., at The Oak House in downtown Canton. Contact Faith Sims at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Marietta SOS — Meets the fourth Tuesday of each month, 7-8:30 p.m., at Marietta First United Methodist Church, Building A. (Teens meet separately.) Contact Terri Johnson at Chose2Live@aol.com.
Other SOS groups, along with online groups and local chapters, can be found on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website at
– Margaret Miller has been a resident of Cherokee County for the past decade. Her writing hobby led her to become a columnist for community and daily newspapers.