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Palm Beach County family raises awareness about suicide

Posted at 1:35 PM, Feb 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-19 19:25:51-05

The Centers for Disease Control's National Center for Health Statistics says more than 40,000 people commit suicide in the United States each year, up 33% since 1999.

The topic of suicide is often stigmatized, but for people like the Nadelbach family, it is impossible to ignore.

Josh Nadelbach took his own life in 2018 at the age of 21. His mom, Cindy, says there were no typical warning signs. Josh continued working and making plans with friends. Then one night, he left the house and took his own life.

"He had a heart of gold. He was kind. And extremely, extremely smart," she said.

Josh had struggled with mental health issues and depression for years, but the Nadelbachs say they never suspected he was in a frame of mind to take his life.

"He started being depressed and having a lot of anxiety in high school, and then it looked like he was getting better," she said.

To pull the stigma away, Cindy wanted to place the loudest, boldest statement in the middle of the community. She came up with the idea for Josh's Benches, in which a bright yellow bench would be placed in a prominent space with information about suicide prevention.

Woodworkers at Jeff Industries were tasked with building the bench. The woodworkers are people with mental illness, learning life skills to lift them up to a brighter future.

Claudia Roberts is the Executive Director of Jeff Industries, who says the organization was founded for a young adult named Jeff who took his own life. "They gain confidence and they learn what they need to be successful in employment, then they go, they get jobs, they pay taxes, they lessen the burden in the governmental assistance so it's a good feeling for us to see them come in, prepare and move on."

The woodworkers creating the bench were pleased to be part of the project for Josh's Benches.

Neil Changhall says: "It's a great place, you know, it's helped me with my life, you know, to get my first job. Very good. It's a very great environment. It's nice to know people here."

Tyrone Powell says it meant a lot to him too. "It's important to them, it's important to us," he said.

Powell says Jeff Industries has been a great place to remove the stigma of mental health, just as the benches aim to do.

"There's a lot of people out there with mental health, and they do need help, and they won't ever get help. But at least the people here are trying to be productive and get help, and get on with their jobs and be productive," he said.

The Nadelbach family unveiled the bench at Wellington's Village Park, surrounded by playing fields where families and children gather. A place Josh had played as a child. The yellow bench is inscribed with his name and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-8255.

"No more 'not talk about suicide,' it's okay to talk about suicide, and if you don't talk about, this is exactly what happened, we lost our son Josh," she said.

The goal is to get more benches in Palm Beach County to to continue to raise awareness.