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FORT MYERS | The role of Hope Clubhouse to stop suicide

Suicide Prevention Month shines a focus on well-being, erasing stigmas
Posted at 9:20 PM, Sep 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-20 21:20:53-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — With September as Suicide Prevention Month, people with Hope Clubhouse, in Fort Myers, point to the moments that made the biggest impact.

Ryan Benefiel talked about how it took time for him to "buy in" to the program.

"When I first came in, I was very quiet, very shy, didn't really talk to people and only stayed a few hours every day," said Benefiel. "Now, I come in every day at 9 in the morning until 4 (in the afternoon), kind of mimicking the office hours I used to hold."

Benefiel said he was an executive vice president of sales with a company in Atlanta before a mental breakdown forced him to move back to Southwest Florida. In the past, Benefiel went to psychiatric wards each month. He said he has just visited twice in five years, saying the program at Hope Clubhouse saved his life.

"It just gave me a purpose back in my life," said Benefiel. "There's a reason to get up, to come to the Clubhouse. There's a reason to do things benefiting other people."

Clients can select from daily activities, such as culinary and horticulture, to business classes to help find work when they leave. Benefiel said he finds fulfillment from tasks like meal prep to managing websites.

"We have members at differing levels of capacity and functionality," said Lauren Walker, the chief operating officer of Hope Clubhouse. "A lot of our members become mentors to other mentors. Watching those relationships build is sort of magical."

Hope Clubhouse wants people to know that help is always available as they keep on their path to provide that strength for people who are struggling.