La Crosse family shares mental health tragedy at Viterbo to help others

Kaitlin Mahr's family use her story to eliminate stigma around mental health

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — A La Crosse family is sharing their story about a daughter who took her own life to help people struggling with mental illness and addiction.

Viterbo University hosted a community conversation featuring the story of Kaitlin Mahr.

Kaitlin died by suicide 14 years ago, and her mother, Debra, wanted to share her family’s difficult experience. The pandemic and isolation have placed more stress and anxiety on people. Mahr said she wants to help reduce the stigma around mental illness and have tough conversations.

“We don’t like to discuss it. It likes to be kinda shoved under the rug,” Mahr said. “The only way we can do it is to come out and talk about our own personal experiences and how we’ve survived to get through this,”

The La Crosse Mental Health Coalition, Viterbo University HRSA VOICE and INSTEP grants helped sponsor the event.

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