LET LIGHT IN: Out of the Darkness Walk brings light to dark subject

Published 2:00 am Saturday, September 12, 2015

Every day, Lawrence Bowden told his grandson he loved him.

Every day, his grandson said, “I love you, too, Pop.”

On June 3, 2013, at the age of 21, Mason McLendon took his life.

Mason McLendon, right, took his life at the age of 21. He is pictured with his sister, Cady Bowden.

Mason McLendon, right, took his life at the age of 21. He is pictured with his sister, Cady Bowden.

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Bowden was in Mobile attending the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference when he got the call about Mason’s death.

“I was stepping onto the curb going into Christ United Methodist Church and I just remember saying, ‘Oh, Mason, why didn’t you talk to me first. Oh, Mason, you have done something I can’t fix.’”

Mason had been suffering from clinical or major depression for about three years.

Bowden said substance abuse was the way his grandson self-treated his depression.

“When we realized that Mason was suffering from depression, we did everything we knew to do to help him,” Bowden said, who is on the East Central Mental Health board.

State mental health agencies do all they can with the resources they have. But they are ‘woefully’ under funded. At times, Mason was only given five minutes and a few pills and told to come back in 90 days.

“We tried several different treatment facilities before we were told that Mason needed long-term care. We were in the process of getting him into a long-term facility that would provide on-site psychiatric, psychological and medical services. That was our best hope.”

But, getting Mason into the facility took time. And, time was what Mason didn’t have, his granddad said.

“I didn’t know how urgently Mason needed those services. We ran out of time. He ran out of time. Suicide was the last desperate act to get his mind at peace.”

Bowden said he is still heartsick thinking that maybe he didn’t put his arms around his grandson and hug him enough or maybe he didn’t give him the all the assurance he needed to know that he could “beat this thing.”

“I did all I knew to do to help Mason but it wasn’t enough,” Bowden said. “I don’t want anyone to have suffer the way Mason did. Medical depression is a terrible thing. Like someone told me, ‘there’s something going on inside your head and nobody can get in there to fix it.”

Bowden will open “Out of the Darkness Day” with prayer at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Troy University soccer field. He will be there to honor the life of his grandson and he will be there to support the efforts of Troy Regional Medical Center and Troy University to bring suicide out of the darkness.

“Suicide is hard to talk about,” he said. “It has a stigma associated with it. We don’t understand why someone would do something like that. We can’t understand. But what is so sad is that we often don’t know that someone you love is suffering. We don’t recognize the signs that lead to suicide until it’s too late.”

Bowden said the “Out of Darkness Walk” from 3 until 5 p.m. Sunday will bring greater awareness to suicide and also raise funds for resources to combat depression and other metal conditions that are often the underlying causes of suicide.

“It is our obligation to provide treatment for mental disorders that is readily available, adequate and affordable,” he said. “We must demand of our Legislators that adequate funding is allocated to train people to deal with mental conditions that foster suicide and suicide attempts. The numbers are staggering and should be alarming enough for public outcry.”

Bowden expressed appreciation to TRMC and Troy University for shedding a light on the escalating number of suicides and suicide attempts in America each year.

“Awareness is a key to suicide prevention,” he said.

Registration for the “Out of the Darkness Day” fundraising walk will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Troy University Soccer Field. There is no registration fee, however, donations are appreciated.

The “Out of the Darkness Walk” will be from 3 until 5 p.m. Participants may walk any length of time or any distance. There will be seating in the bleachers for those who are not walking. Music will be provided by local artists. There will be a kids’ area with games and a bouncy house so parents can leave their kids safely managed while they walk.

“With the help of the Troy and Pike County communities, we can make a difference in preventing suicide, which is a major national health problem that takes lives and, with it an enormous toll on family, friends, co-workers and the entire community,” said Amy Minor, TRMC Walk coordinator.