On June 3, I will be walking 16+ miles overnight through DC on my 7th walk to raise funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
This May marks the 14-year anniversary of my dad's death by suicide. I don't know the exact date of his death, as he disappeared on May 15, and we located him the next day. Suicide can be like this.
I walk in honor of my dad, Michael, who died in May 2009. This was just three months before the birth of my son, who we named after him. I think about how much he'd have loved my kids, and how much they’d revel in his attention.
My dad was charismatic, smart, and funny. He laughed with his whole being. He first attempted suicide when I was 11, and I grew up forbidden to talk about it. In later years he shut down conversations about depression or medication. My dad died on his seventh suicide attempt.
I think about how now, with my awareness, and my current unwillingness to be intimidated or shamed into silence, things could have been different. Maybe my dad could have met my kids.
I miss him every day.
I walk in honor of my cousin Travis, who was 23 when he left us in May 2016. He is forever young, vibrant, joyful, and so loved.
Travis was a joker, a hugger, the person his peers, his sports coaches, his teachers and teammates looked to for a smile and a laugh. He worked hard, and achieved his goals. He was so handsome, and never without a smile, or a helping hand.
Travis worked diligently through four years of ROTC training, and so proudly earned an officer's commission as Second Lieutenant in the Air Force. In doing so, he’d achieved a lifelong dream.
Nobody could imagine him ending his life.
I walk in honor of my mother’s brother, my Uncle Arlan, who we lost in 1997.
Arlan was smart and funny, an entrepreneur. He moved to TX and built a successful industrial battery business himself, out of nothing.
From my current vantage point, I can see that he was severely depressed for years. But we didn't see him often, and we didn't understand back then.
Uncle Arlan died believing he was alone in the world, and yet his funeral was standing room only. He had a vast collection of “good ol’ boy” hats that were distributed and donned at his funeral.
Losing a loved one to suicide means some people will avoid mentioning your loss. It can make survivors feel isolated, which is all the more devastating. I talk and I walk in an effort to break the stigma, and normalize the conversation associated with mental illness suicide.
I believe silence and shame kill people.
I’ve found dear friends in the suicide prevention community. I walk with others who have lost a relative, friend, or dearly loved child. We walk and we talk through the darkest hours of the night, working to heal, and raising funds in hopes that others might not ever need to join us.
Research shows that depression has a genetic component, and on my dad's side of the family, depression and suicide attempts go back at least two generations. I know that my children are more vulnerable. Raising funds for research, and breaking the stigma associated with mental illness and suicide are all things that are very personal for me.
If you are able to support this cause that is so unfortunately dear to my heart, I would be very grateful.
If you’d like to give me the name (or initials, or whatever feels comfortable) of a loved one to walk for, I'd be honored. I'll write them on my walk shirt, and carry them with me throughout the night.
All donations to the AFSP are tax deductible.
Love and hugs,
Get The Word Out