This story mentions suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.
LOGANVILLE, Wis. — On a hazy, early summer day, Sarah Schartner pulled her family’s all-terrain vehicle out of the driveway, donned her tortoise rimmed sunglasses and took a ride across her family’s multi-generational 300 acres of farm lands.
“He loved being a dad. He loved being on the farm taking care of animals. Like this was his calling,” Schartner said as she scanned the fields, reflecting on the vast memories of her childhood in the Loganville fields.
Losing her dad, Leon Statz, is one reason why coming home is so bittersweet for Schartner.
“Every new year on the farm brings new growth, new opportunities, but there’s that one piece that’s been missing,” she said. “And that’s my dad. It’ll be five years this October.”
The tragedy happened on the farm after the retiring farmer’s year-long battle with depression and multiple suicide attempts. He ultimately took his life.
“The farm, it’s a constant 24-hour job and a very demanding job and unless you have someone you trust to help out with that, it’s almost impossible to take time away,” she said. “Even to go take care of daily things that you should do to take care of yourself.”
Schartner’s younger brother Ethan helps run the farm. He was the one who found his father that terrible day. He said he copes the best he can with the loss of their dad by taking breaks that include talking with farming friends. He also recently joined the Loganville Volunteer Fire Department.
And between the backbreaking work, he said he plans on doing one thing his dad always loved on Friday night: watching his daughter perform.
“My dad loved her singing, even at church,” he said of Schartner. “He would try and get her to sing at church and he really loved hearing her sing.”
It’s one of the reasons Schartner is helping put on a benefit concert with her cover band, Union Road.
“We can give people some help and let them know that there’s other people here willing to help them as well,” concert promoter and Juneau County Suicide Prevention Coalition President Tabitha Luenebeurg said about why she got involved in the night of music. “[There’s] more on people’s plate, more than ever before and we just need to learn from different coping mechanisms and hopefully, those things can definitely help.”
The National Rural Health Association shows farmers face a higher likelihood of suicide than the general public. It’s something Schartner said she wants to shed light on.
“We didn’t want to just brush it over or say that he died suddenly or unexpectedly. We wanted to face it head on,” Schartner said. “Because I feel like the less that we talk about it, the more stigmatizing it becomes.”
Besides Sauk and Juneau County Suicide Prevention Coalitions, the concert also supports Wisconsin’s Farmer Angel Network’s Soup of the Soul Program.
“We have people in this organization getting trained in like grief crisis, and just ways to support people that are going through these really tumultuous times,” Schartner said.
Staring at the farm’s reflecting pool, both siblings said they know time is the one thing they can’t get back with their father.
“And I know that his spirit will be alive and well with us on Friday night,” Schartner said.
The event will be held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Summit Ridge Restaurant in Wonewoc on June 30. Even if you can’t attend, you can learn how to support the effort, here.
If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, the National Prevention Hotline can be reached by simply dialing 988.