BULLHEAD CITY — Hundreds of people participated in Bullhead City’s second Suicide Awareness and Prevention Walk to demonstrate that “our story’s not over.”
The phrase is part of an explanation about why a semicolon was chosen as a symbol — often used as a tattoo — meaning “my story’s not over yet.”
An author, Amy Bleuel, came up with the concept because a writer ends a sentence with a period. However, a semicolon indicates there is more to come in that sentence. She saw a semicolon as a symbol of hope and love for herself and others dealing with mental health issues, that it’s a choice to continue living — to continue the story of their life.
An array of groups that assist people seeking advice about health issues, mental health challenges and other needs — including alcohol and chemical dependency — set up booths at the event. Representatives were there to talk and hand out information about various issues, as well as business cards so people can reach out as needed.
CJ Kelly, president of the Guardian Foundation, said the stigma attached to people suffering with mental health problems needs to be addressed throughout society, including among members of the military and veterans.
Kelly also said families need to close their laptop computers and put down their telephones so they can actually talk face-to face and learn more about one another’s lives.
Those electronic gadgets have made bullying an around-the-clock occurrence and youths on the receiving end are paying a price: Younger people are turning to suicide — even children.
“Social media isn’t true relationships,” he stressed. “Kids are feeling entrapped.”
A former pastor, Kelly looks back at mistakes he made dealing with people who have attempted suicide.
He told one such person that suicide is a selfish decision.
That’s not a good way to help someone feel better about themselves, Kelly said.
He used some responses that would fit such a comment: “Now I’ve got a guilt complex” and “Pile it on.”
When someone in that state of mind reaches out, the best first reaction is simply to listen, he said.
One of the people who walked the route that began and ended at Ken Fovargue Park, Joyce Bruget, had two relatives who committed suicide and a third who attempted it.
“We saved her,” she said.
She said she also thinks about veterans she has met who managed to make it home but with issues that cause them to feel they can’t continue on, and that it makes her feel sad.
“Always be a listener,” Bruget noted.
Pictures of veterans who committed suicide were made available for walkers to wear around their necks. Some participants brought pictures of their loved ones and did the same, no matter whether that person served in the military.
Another woman, JoAnn Foss, was in pain after walking the 0.75-mile route using a cane. She has gone through some surgeries to help alleviate her medical problems. She plans to come to the next suicide prevention walk — though she’ll use a walker to help her next time.
“Depression is not a good thing,” said Foss, who takes medication to help her through it. “I think of my grandchildren. That keeps me going.”
Speakers were identified only by their first names. All survived suicide attempts and are willing to make efforts to stay alive.
For example, Laura explained that her suicide attempt was 10 years ago, this month. She had a job that required her to skillfully help others but ignored signs that she needed someone to help her, she explained.
Afterward, many family members began keeping their distance from her. And she said it saddens her that only her husband was willing to come to the suicide awareness walk with her because other loved ones couldn’t.
“It takes a lot of strength to come out of the darkness. I struggle at times,” Laura said. “But if you’re struggling, that lifeline is in your voice, to reach out and say ‘I need help.’ ”
Organizers said the number of people who came to the event on Monday at Ken Fovargue Park increased significantly over that of the first such walk last September. They estimated well over 200 people walked Monday.
The free event was sponsored by the Guardian Foundation and Catholic Charities in conjunction with Bullhead City government.
The organizers choosing to use “our” and not “my” to begin the event’s slogan is a way to show there are many people in the community willing to help someone choose to live because they are part of the community’s story, said Robert Brandefine of the Guardian Foundation. He also leads the city’s Suicide Prevention Task Force
If it appears someone you know will follow through with a suicide attempt, obtain assistance by calling 1-800-273-8255. If someone has acted on suicidal thoughts, call 9-1-1.