Jacob’s SWAG Foundation Inc. has been established in memory of our son, brother and friend, Jacob Ellefson. Jacob passed away on June 7, 2012 by taking his own life. He was a funny, loving, and vibrant young man who was successful socially and in school. He had many talents, but more so than any, he was able to connect with those around him and make them laugh. Jacob is truly missed by all who knew him. On this day, every moment, every dream, and everything about Jacob’s family and community changed.
After the first year of grieving and experiencing all the “firsts” without Jacob, Jacob’s family picked up the pieces and continued living. Their hopes and dreams had changed over that year, but through this process, a new focus and purpose was realized. The family knew their long-term healing would only be attained by turning this tragedy into purpose. An idea was born to give back to those individuals and communities that have given so much love and support to the family during their greatest time of need. It was decided that there was no better way to keep Jacob’s giving spirit and loving personality alive than to help others in his honor. A merging of grief, remembrance, respect, and a love of community resulted in the formation of Jacob’s SWAG (Support With Awareness and Giving). The idea was a way to tell the story of Jacob and his family in an effort to break the stigma of suicide and to talk about mental health supports. The foundation raises awareness of the importance of suicide prevention, mental health, bullying and making good life choices. In addition, by healing and connecting with one another, Jacob’s SWAG demonstrates that community love and support offers a power with no boundaries, nor limitations.
Whenever tragedy strikes individuals, families and communities, Jacob’s SWAG rallies to stand behind them. This is done by providing support and offering resources. In addition, the foundation speaks on behalf of the voiceless, telling stories, sharing experiences and helping to educate those exact individuals that are in need of information, care and understanding. Through this journey, Jacob’s family and the other foundation members have met many families and individuals who share similar pain and experiences. Many of these people have shared their struggles, their losses and their raw feelings. By providing assistance to those in need, others are finding the courage and strength to face and open up about these hard topics in their own journey. As a result, many are learning about the complexities of suicide and mental health and slowly our society is learning more about this painful topic. It is believed that by sharing individual stories and lessons learned that we can eliminate the stigma of suicide and mental health support.
The Jacob’s SWAG (Support With Awareness and Giving) Foundation Inc. strives to support the emotional needs of children by providing support to schools and community youth programs with a primary focus on suicide prevention/awareness, bullying, mental health and helping students make good life choices.
To create awareness about mental health issues and suicide in an effort to ultimately break the stigma and end suicide. People need to learn to discuss their unhealthy feelings and thoughts to allow them to get the professional support they need. Jacob’s SWAG will work tirelessly to ensure that all children are surrounded by school and community supports that will prevent any family from enduring the pain of loss by suicide.
On June 7, 2012, the world changed. What happened to Jacob’s family was sudden and very unexpected. Losing a child to suicide is unlike any other feeling that one can experience. The only way to explain it is that a part of your soul is gone, not just hurt, but completely gone. This is a feeling that no family should ever have to endure.
This work is inspired by the memory of Jacob and it serves as a way for the family and Jacob’s friends to address an issue that is of critical importance to them and their community. This foundation also serves as a way to remain connected to Jacob. Jake was a caring young man that was always making sure that everyone around him was smiling and laughing. He befriended many and cared for all. The supportive and giving nature of the foundation is a reflection of Jacob’s spirit, personality and memory.
Sadly, suicide is on the rise in Wisconsin and across the country. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has reported that from 2000-2017 the suicide rates in the state increase by 40%. In addition, suicide is the second leading cause of death for adolescents in Wisconsin. This is representative of a troubling trend in our country. In the United States, suicide has increased by 33% in roughly the same time period. This is a trend that must not only be stopped, but eliminated.
Jacob’s SWAG believes that talking about suicide and how it affected the family can open lines of communication within families and communities. The foundation hopes to spread the message that “it is ok to not be ok.” It is normal to feel sad or lonely. It is appropriate to seek support and help when you are feeling unwell and unsafe. Our children need to learn that talking about feelings in an effort to get better is the right thing to do. No one should suffer in silence.
Jacob’s SWAG hopes that no other parent will feel the sadness and emptiness that comes with loss by suicide. It is hoped that no other sibling will feel angry that their brother or sister could not open up to them. It is hoped that no other friends feel so helpless that their friend was in such a dark place that they could not reach him or her. In the end, it comes down to one. If just one person chooses to talk about how they are feeling instead of making a permanent decision related to a temporary situation, Jacob’s SWAG has achieved its goal. Just one…