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Suicide survivor to share her story at Sept. 19 event after decades of struggle

By Shelly Birkelo
September 4, 2015

JANESVILLE—It was late at night in her Janesville apartment.

Patty Slatter's roommate was sleeping.

Struggling with depression and fighting suicidal thoughts, the then 20-year-old wanted to end her life.

She was scared.

It was the first time she'd planned a suicide attempt.

“I was tired of hurting and thought everybody else would be better off without me,” Slatter recalled.

She even had the pills in her hand she was going to take.

But her faith in God kept her from swallowing them.

She dialed the number of her mental health counselor, who kept her on the phone while calling police.

When Slatter woke up, she was hospitalized in an in-patient mental health unit.

Although she was frightened, she was relieved she could finally get some help.

But what Slatter didn't know at the time was that a past trauma would haunt her for decades.

“For the next 20 years, I was hospitalized at least 40 times and coped with a dozen suicide attempts,” she said.

The 41-year-old Fort Atkinson woman will share her story when she speaks during the fourth annual Suicide Awareness & Prevention Event on Saturday, Sept. 19, at the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds, 1301 Craig Ave., Janesville.

She will be among others who will talk about their lives that have been affected by suicide.

"My goal is to share my story and help people know it can get better. For me, this is what God's wanting me to do,” she said.

Slatter isn't alone.

“Over 1 million individuals tried to end their lives in the U.S. last year. That's one person every 40 seconds,” said Tony Farrell Sr., outreach coordinator for the Rock County Medical Examiner's Department and Rock County Health Department.

Rock County had 32 suicides in 2011, 23 in 2012, 22 in 2013 and 25 in 2014.

“In 2015, there have been 18 ruled suicides,” Farrell said, citing statistics from the Rock County Medical Examiner's Department.

Loss of just one life is one tragedy too many, Farrell said.

That's why the Janesville man also is volunteer director of the Rock County Suicide Prevention Program and Safety Series.

Farrell pays his own expenses and uses no taxpayer dollars for presentations he will give any day of the week for groups who call 608-751-2065 to make arrangements.

“The whole idea of the series is to help encourage awareness and make the warning signs available to the public. My role is to give encouragement, support and hope. My commitment is to help save and enrich lives,” he said.

Farrell and his wife, Londa, did that for Slatter after she heard him give a presentation at New Life Assembly of God, where they all are members.

Slatter approached Farrell, and he invited her to get involved in YES! in Rock County, a community coalition focused on children's mental health issues that raises awareness, reduces stigma and makes changes through education and the promotion of best practices.

Since then, Londa has been a friend, mentor and interventionist for Slatter.

“Every time she went to the hospital, I was there for her,” Londa said.

Slatter appreciated the Farrellses' support.

“They don't judge me and love me no matter what I'm struggling with,” she said.

During the past year, Slatter has gone from taking 20 prescription medications to none.

That happened through her willingness to work with doctors, give up sugar, gluten and processed food, which dramatically improved her physical and mental health, she said.

“I feel I have changed so much, have a purpose and mission,” Slatter said.

She also attributes the ability to overcome her struggles to friends, church, counselors and doctors she worked with.

As of Aug. 1, Slatter had not been hospitalized for one year, which is a first in 20 years.

Her ongoing recovery is apparent.

Londa said Slatter, who had "ash-gray skin and hollow eyes" is more at peace and "glows” today.

“She had a bigger purpose but just couldn't see it,” she said.

Acceptance was a milestone for Slatter.

"You can struggle,” she said, “and it can be OK.”



What: Fourth Annual Suicide Awareness & Prevention Event presented by YES! in Rock County, a community coalition focused on children's mental health issues.

When: 4-7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19. Registration begins at 3:30 p.m.

Where: Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds, 1301 Craig Ave., Janesville.

Activities: Speakers affected by suicide, presentation of hope line resource, support for survivors, information fair, memory walk and music.

Registration: Visit

Cost: $15 each or $12 each for groups of five or more registering together. Children 12 and younger are free.

Sponsors: Beloit Health System, Fetch Graphics, Best Events, and Mercy Health System


What: David's PAR 3 Save a Life Golf Scramble Fundraiser to establish scholarships for area high school students whose lives have been affected by suicide and to promote suicide prevention, awareness and recovery.

When: Sunday, Sept. 20, starting with 10 a.m. registration and continental breakfast, shotgun start at 11 a.m. shotgun start and dinner at 4 p.m.

Where: Prairie Woods Golf Course, 12601 E. County A, Avalon.

Cost: $100 per golfer. Includes 18 holes of golf with cart, breakfast and dinner plus a free round of golf with cart for future use and a $20 gift certificate to use in the pro shop. Dinner only is $40. Donations from nongolfers are welcome.

Registration:  Register online at

Contact: Jacqui Palcic, 608-774-3929, [email protected].


What: Wellness & Recovery Empowerment Project mental health and wellness fair

When: Noon-6 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 17.

Where: Room K of the Rock County Job Center, 1900 Center Ave., Janesville.

Cost: Free. Raffle tickets will be sold for gift baskets.

Featured: More than 20 vendors and agencies, who will have informational booths.

Schedule of activities in Room D/E:

-- Awaken higher brain living, noon

-- Yoga with Lori Frison, 1 p.m.

-- Planting activity with UW Extension, 2 p.m.

-- Aromatherapy/essential oils, 3 p.m.

-- Good Drugs Gone Bad presentation by Janesville police officer Chad Sullivan, 4 p.m.

-- Opiate overdose training, 5 p.m.

-- A children's activity/craft area and large canvas for adults to paint a mural also will be available. The finished painting will be displayed at the YES! in Rock County Fourth Annual Suicide Awareness & Prevention Event on Saturday, Sept. 19, at the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds.


Rock County Crisis Intervention provides emergency services 24 hours a day and seven days a week for Rock County residents in need of resolving mental health or alcohol and drug crises.

Crisis workers provide support over the phone or in person and will travel for confidential meetings.

If you, a loved one or friend is experiencing a mental health or alcohol or drug crisis, call the crisis center at 608-757-5025 or Rock County Communications Center at 608-757-2244. In an emergency, dial 911. 


A Rock County Crisis Intervention online brochure indicates suicide risk symptoms include:

-- Excessive or increased substance abuse

-- Expressions of having no reason to live

-- Displays of anxiety, agitation or insomnia

-- Expressions of hopelessness or of being trapped with no way out

-- Withdrawal from friends, family and society

-- Anger, rage and seeking revenge

-- Recklessness, risk taking, unthinking

-- Dramatic mood changes

-- The giving away of belongings