MGoBlue: Messages of Hope-Doing Something to Stop Student Suicide

Steve Kornacki of covered the Messages of Hope board unveiling on Sept. 15. Below is an excerpt.

By Steve Kornacki

Garrick Roemer used to love running on the track at the University of Michigan’s iconic Ferry Field and walking across the service street to the Ross Academic Center. He ran the hurdles and was on a sprint relay for the Wolverines, and he was living a dream as a kid who grew up just a few miles south of campus in Saline.

Then, on May 4, 2014, his life and all of those dreams ended. Roemer, still four months away from his 20th birthday, died by suicide.

Sorrow came so suddenly for his family, friends and teammates. Grief pervaded the campus and his hometown. Over time, his family received heartfelt compassion and heard so many positive stories about Garrick from countless people, many of whom they’d never spoken with before, that it drove them to do something that could make a difference where suicide is concerned.

“It really is a time for us to wake up to the fact that this is an issue — that people need help.”

— U-M Athletic Director Warde Manuel

“Garrick liked people to be connected,” said his mother, Cathy Radovich. “One of his teammates said he was the glue that connected people. And the people that I’ve connected with since his death are really because of Garrick. He is bringing me to all of these other people that I’m meeting and helping.

“So, he’s still helping people. But it’s just through me. If I can honor him that way, that’s what I will do.”

She and other family members, including Garrick’s father, Ronald Roemer, have funded something that they hope not only carries on Garrick’s loving, compassionate spirit but also provides solace and resources for those considering suicide. Their Messages of Hope board was officially unveiled Friday (Sept. 15), in the middle of National Suicide Awareness Month, along the main corridor of the Ross Academic Center.

Wolverines athletic director Warde Manuel addressed the gathering of well over 100 and said that while it was a “celebration” of Garrick and the Messages of Hope board, as well as a time to share thoughts, it was more than that, too.

“It really is a time for us to wake up to the fact that this is an issue — that people need help,” said Manuel, who has a social work background.

He noted data detailing a 24 percent increase in suicide over the last 15 years and added that a golfer who was at Michigan while Manuel was playing football and participating in track and field 30 years ago recently committed suicide.

Afterward, I asked Manuel what made this topic so personal and special to him.

“We often talk about being a family,” Manuel said of the athletic department. “And because we are a family, we care. And we have family members in our midst in athletics who need our love and support and who are considering and thinking about suicide more than we know.

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