Jessica-Ann Mahan sets up a memorial table Thursday for her child, Nico Lovell-Mahan, as part of a Nico’s Night at The Miller’s Table restaurant in Skowhegan. Taylor Abbott/Morning Sentinel

SKOWHEGAN — Nearly $950 was collected recently to purchase materials for the libraries in Skowhegan and Canaan that raise awareness about suicide prevention and about the LGBTQ community in the area.

The fundraising effort was spurred by the suicide on May 31 of Nico Lovell-Mahan, 18, of Canaan. Lovell-Mahan was a senior at Skowhegan Area High School at the time and identified as nonbinary.

Nico Lovell-Mahan Contributed photo

Much of the money was raised Thursday during Nico’s Night at The Miller’s Table restaurant in Skowhegan. Jessica-Ann Mahan, Nico’s mother, helped coordinate the event. For every purchase at the restaurant, $5 was donated to the fundraiser in conjunction with a silent auction and donation bucket.

“Jessica has chosen to make a positive out of this tragedy by wanting to share about suicide awareness and education,” said Maureen Delahanty, an organizer for the event. “That is why these funds will go to the Canaan and Skowhegan libraries to purchase books and educational materials.”

Delahanty and Mahan have been working with several organizations to form a panel that will work to provide outreach to the community. Somerset Public Health and the Maine chapter of the National Association on Mental Illness are a couple of the groups involved.

Danielle Denis, community health educator at Somerset Public Health, said the goals for the group are to “build resilience and celebrate our youth.”

“The local conditions in the community perfectly sustain the problems within our community,” Denis said. “This is true about suicide, substance misuses, community violence, child abuse or any other problem impacting our community as a whole.”

Understanding these conditions, rather than placing blame, helps explain why a problem exists within a community, she said.

Part of the work the group is tasked with is identifying the social, psychological, cultural and other factors that are “interacting in our community that lead the way to suicidal thoughts and behavior,” she said.

The Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, conducted by the state, indicates that about 18% of high school students have seriously considered suicide in the last 12 months. Nearly 11% have attempted suicide in the last year.

“Suicide is considered a silent epidemic, it affects everybody,” Delahanty said. “It doesn’t matter if you are straight, gay, your racial ethnicity, your culture, your religion, your mental abilities, your physical abilities. It affects everybody.”

Creating change, she said, requires a broad effort.

“It’s going to take every one of us to be the hope, to be the change, to be the one,” Delahanty said. “Support comes in strength. Please remember Nico Lovell-Mahan.”

Jessica-Ann Mahan said she was heartened by the amount of money that was raised.

“I didn’t think there were that many people that cared,” she said, later adding, “Nico needs a voice, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

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