TAMPA (WFLA) – Fighting the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide has become a Bay Area family’s mission since their son and brother took his own life back in 2017.

“He was a protective brother and a very good friend,” Liz Dimmitt said of her youngest sibling, Lawrence Dimmitt IV.

While Saturday was International Day of Survivors of Suicide Loss, the pain and grief of losing her brother is something she lives with every day.

“It was pretty much the worst thing that has ever happened to us,” Liz said. “We are a close-knit family and Lawrence was seemingly a thriving man. He was only 32-years-old.

Dimmitt’s family started the Love IV Lawrence Foundation because they did not want his death to be in vain.

“And our goal is to change the conversation about depression, mental health, and suicide so that we sort of de-stigmatize having those conversations and checking in with your friends and encourage people to have the conversation so other families and friend groups don’t have to experience the tragedy that is suicide.”

The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay reports a more than 200 percent increase in calls in Hillsborough County since the launch of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline last year.

The center’s CEO Clara Reynolds said it is important for families like the Dimmitts to share their story with others in hopes of saving lives.

“Oftentimes we think about suicide just impacting that person who dies who completes that suicide,” Reynolds said, “but it has a huge ripple effect not only on family members but friends and all of the extended individuals that have been part of that person’s life.”

The Love IV Lawrence (https://loveivlawrence.org/) foundation sponsors classes in mental health first aid training for first responders and teachers.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts help is out there by calling 2-2-1 to reach Tampa Bay Cares or 9-8-8 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.