Lauri Maloney holds a photo of her son Patrick, a U.S. Navy veteran who took his life five years ago. A workshop for families and friends of veterans who may be troubled is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center in Biddeford TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

LYMAN — Patrick Maloney was the type of guy who could make you laugh, his mother said.

“To date, he was the funniest person I’d ever met,” said Lauri Maloney. “He was not afraid to make himself look like an idiot (for a laugh).”

The laughter went silent on Dec. 1, 2013 when Patrick, 32, and a U.S. Navy veteran, took his life. It has been a difficult five years for his family.

“I have functioned, but this is the first year I’ve had more joy than not,” Lauri said from the kitchen of the Lyman home she shares with her husband, Jeff Ladebush, earlier this week.

At the time of his discharge and the years that followed, Patrick was troubled at times, but Maloney said she saw no signs that would lead her to think he was contemplating suicide.

She knew her son had a particularly difficult mission in the Gulf that had weighed heavily on him.

Many folks don’t see signs in their loved ones. Some may not realize that in Maine in 2014 — the most recent year for which figures are available — 55 veterans took their lives.

Nationwide, according to a Veterans Administration report issued on June 18, an average of 20 veterans, active-duty service members and non-activated guard or reservists died by suicide each day in 2015.

Jeannie Delahunt and others involved with the York County Veteran Suicide Prevention Task Force want to raise awareness and offer ways to help.

A training program is set for Wednesday at Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center at 35 South St. in Biddeford to help folks find ways to talk to people who may be at risk, and what to look for when someone they love may be having problems.

Called Safetalk, it will bring together those from the Sanford Vet Center, Maine Military and Community Network (of which the task force is a part), Maine Bureau of Veterans Services and Veterans of Foreign Wars and others.

“We’ve got to get over the stigma of being afraid to talk about suicide,” said Delahunt.

Delahunt said until she began gathering information after Patrick’s death, she had no idea the suicide numbers were as high as they are. She saw her friend Lauri suffering, and decided to get involved.

“I was blown away by her grief and her husband’s grief,” Delahunt said. “Something inside me said ‘that’s your mission.’”

Sanford Vet Center director Amy Marcotte said Wednesday’s session will help people learn how to initiate a conversation to inquire about how someone is doing.

“The first thing we want to reinforce with folks is that they are the front line —  those who care about and love our veterans are the front line defense against suicide,” said Marcotte. “Their part is opening the conversation, bringing the suicidal thoughts into the light.”

She said those who attend will learn how to recognize the need for concern, how to communicate effectively, offer support and provide information on how to get help.

“We open this up to the entire community for people to come together to learn how to recognize folks in distress who might be contemplating suicide and how to initiate the conversation,” said Marcotte. “To create some comfort level in initiating conversation to inquire about how they’re doing, about the support they’re needing and asking questions.”

Patrick was born in 1984, one of six kids in the family. He graduated from Massabesic High School in Waterboro and enlisted in the U.S. Navy when he was 19 years old.

He was discharged three years later, his mother said, with medication but no follow-up.

He leaves a wife and son.

These days, Lauri said, when she looks at his photos, she can see the hollowness in his eyes. He was troubled, she recalled and would  make appointments to see counselors, but then not go, saying he had to work, or cancel for some other reason.

When he died, Lauri coped with her grief the best way she knew how, drawing strength from her family, her friends, and her church.

It wasn’t easy.

“I spent a year on my couch,” she said.

Losing a child is unfathomable to those who haven’t, and suicide adds a dimension, she said, because families are left with questions and guilt.

In the past few years, Lauri has reached out to other mothers who have lost sons and daughters — mostly in online groups and some around her big kitchen table in Lyman, where folks sit and feel comfortable talking.

The task force’s Wednesday meeting is important, she said.

“This needs to be done, I am glad Jeannie and the group are doing it,” she said. “(I believe) people take their lives because they feel there is no hope. We’ve got to find a way to instill hope.”

To register for the free Safetalk training, which is designed for adults and young people 15 and older, call Delahunt at 432-4533 or go to: www.eventbrite.com and enter Safetalk and Biddeford.

Veterans who feel they need to talk to someone now may call the national Veterans Crisis Line toll free at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. More information about this service is online at: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net.

Veterans may also call the Sanford Vet Center at 490-1513 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. — during off hours, the number reaches the Vet Center Combat Call Center — which may also be reached directly toll-free at 877-WAR-VETS (927-8387).

Maine’s Statewide Crisis line is: 1-888-568-1112.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

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