Although National Suicide Prevention Week ended on Sept. 15, the Franklin Square-based nonprofit Dan’s Plan, which advocates for suicide and mental health awareness, has already begun planning its next big event. Mike Babich, the president of Dan’s Plan, told the Herald that he would announce a $12,000 donation to the Houston-based Into Action Recovery Center at the charity’s Halloween costume party planned for Oct. 26. It is the same center from which his brother, Dan, had gotten help before his suicide three years ago.
Mike said that Dan was always a popular guy. Dan was a football and baseball star at H. Frank Carey High School, ran Wheeler Deli in Valley Stream and was a crowd-favorite bartender in Malverne. When Dan took his life on May 1, 2015, Mike and his mother, Aquila, felt lost.
“This is the most confusing thing Michael and I have ever faced,” Aquila told the Herald in an interview after Dan’s suicide. “We decided in the hospital that we needed to do something.”
As the community rallied behind them and told stories about how much of a presence Dan had been in their lives, Mike decided to start a GoFundMe page that raised more than $20,000 in its first week. This inspired Mike and his family to start their nonprofit and raise awareness for suicide prevention.
Dan’s Plan hosts several fundraisers throughout the year, including an outing to see the New York Mets that draws in more than 100 people each year. This year, the stadium allowed them to play an awareness video on the JumboTron.
Mike, an admissions counselor at Molloy College, explained that awareness was a big component of suicide prevention, as people tend to keep their emotions bottled up. He found that his was especially true among men, which might explain why suicides are three times higher than among men than among women, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“The culture around men is that they shouldn’t have those feelings or they’re considered soft,” Mike said. “Rather than holding it in, the first step is to admit it and be open about it.”
He likes to show documentaries and informational videos at Molloy to help educate younger people to break out of that habit and not be afraid to seek help. And this thought about reaching out to others inspired Mike and the rest of his organization to come up with a group theme for this year’s Halloween Ball at the Knights of Columbus in Lynbrook.
The Halloween Ball, now in its third year, honors the memory of Dan, as well as Alexandra Carroll, and its theme is “2, 3, 4 or More.” Mike hopes that by having groups of people team up together for the costume contest, they can learn the importance of looking to others for help.
“Even if it’s something silly like a costume contest, we want people to know that no one is really alone,” Mike said.