Marjorie writes about local community heroes and Ithaca's treasures—people, places, programs. These gems are unearthed here in Community Connections.

Tim Turecek

Tim Turecek

Some of us met Tim Turecek when he was a teacher or a principal, or later when he served as school superintendent in Marathon, NY. Others met Tim during his administrative stint at New Roots School in Ithaca, and some of us worked with him when he taught incarcerated teens in a secure state facility nearby. People who have bought Middle Eastern street food may recall a lively, cheerful chap filling their weekend takeout order. WRFI Radio fans tune in weekly to Tim’s radio astrology presentation. Fewer of us knew that Tim served for years as a volunteer and board member at Suicide Prevention and Crisis Services. Since July of this year Tim has taken on coordination of this essential agency.

No matter how people first crossed paths with Turecek they describe him as upbeat and warm, easy to talk to, modest and hilarious. Many of his jobs were by nature conflict-ridden, yet even those who disagreed with Tim on an issue express no negativity about this gentle, soft-spoken guy.

Having spent so many years helping young people flourish despite sometimes overwhelming challenges, when asked about Suicide Prevention and Crisis Services, Tim speaks of our young people whose suicide rate is tragic: “Baby Boomers are now becoming the elders. We are surrounded by brilliant, insightful, energetic young people, the Millennials, 20-40-year olds who are scared about their future in the world we have created. We must be honest that everything is not okay.  Suicide Prevention provides a meaningful emergency connection for someone who cannot reach a family member or friend. We are a stop-gap, [a] crucial safety valve when anxiety becomes overwhelming.”

Tim adds: “Despite being described as such a great guy, I am also petulant, angry, arrogant, hypocritical, and wrong at times. Not everybody likes me, and sometimes I don’t like myself…“It is important for our young people to hear that we are all  a unique constellation of parts. To be healthy, whole, and useful- as an individual or as a community- we must cherish and develop ALL our parts- especially the “ugly” ones… It’s where the divinity is.”

Turecek said he has to work to root out his own “bad stuff.” That means avoiding dragging others down by projecting his own negative experiences onto them.

“As I travel in our community, I meet people who lament that we have ‘lost our community,’ and I hear the desire that we help each other to rebuild community,” Turecek said. “Rebuilding this network of connection is a fundamental need, but to get there we need to focus on what works today to connect people with one another, to give them meaning and purpose, to provide, at least, a lifeline.”

“Here in Tompkins County, the Legislature enables us to quickly arrange up to 8 free counselling sessions through our After-Trauma program. When someone is contemplating suicide or overwhelmed by loss, they need help now.

“And the Crisis line we know saves lives. People tell us so, and readers know that all of us must face times in our life when talking to a trained and compassionate stranger would provide the lift and/or clarity we need. That’s what the Crisis Line is for. It’s for all of us at 1-800-273-8255.”

Turecek said Crisis Services’ previous director, Lee Ellen Marvin, has moved into a role where she can focus on educational programs at the organization, featuring week-long residencies at local schools to work on “building safe, supportive and resilient school cultures.” Hopefully, that type of education will equip students with the long-term tools to fight thoughts of suicide, should they occur.

In our daily lives in our tumultuous world, Tim’s candid recognition of our frailties, as well as our strengths, may help us accept that we all wrestle with demons.  Acknowledging the enormity of the tasks before us, and acknowledging that none of us has it together all the time,  may help us be kinder to ourselves and thereby open to kindness in others. This acceptance alone may help us maintain healthier expectations, and be an important preventive against suicidal thoughts.

Stay tuned for upcoming messages from Tim Turecek and his colleagues at Suicide Prevention and Crisis Services. In the meantime Tim says, “People want to know how they can help. I find eye contact, a smile, or hidden kindness to a stranger is enough. It’s also the best self-care.”

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