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INTO THE LIGHT: Out of Darkness walk shines light on suicide prevention

“Every tick of the clock is final. Time is an incredible gift from God and it is the only thing that matters.”

The words of Josh Johnson, WSFA personality, resonated through the crowd that gathered for the fourth Annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk Sunday at Troy University. His words had a sobering effect on those who were there to raise awareness about suicide prevention, especially those for whom time has run out as it has for Johnson and his brother.

“If I lived another million years, I could not have the life I have today,” Johnson said. “But I would give anything for a few minutes with my brother.”

Johnson said his brother died alone and scared in a cold, dark alley behind a movie theater.

Johnson’s brother seemingly had it all. He was an athlete. He was popular. He scored 33 on the ACT. But then he blew out his knee playing basketball and became addicted to the pain reliever oxycodone and, from there, heroin.

“The decisions we make are our destiny,” Johnson told an audience of all ages.

Once a person makes the decision to end his or her life, the family has to deal with the profound grief and the stigma that comes with suicide.

“People don’t understand suicide. That’s why’s there a stigma attached to suicide and it shouldn’t be that way. It’s humbling,” Betsy Bowden said. “Something happened … and my son died. That was the only thing that mattered. Mason died.”

Lindy Wood said suicide leaves so many unanswered questions, regrets and forever the pain of “could I have done something that would have made a difference?”

“I lost my sister to suicide in November 2000,” she said. “Cheryl suffered from depression … She overdosed, but they got her to the hospital. I never left her side and I was able to tell her that I understood and that I loved her. That was such a blessing.”

Sunday’s Out of Darkness Walk was Wood’s first.

“God laid it on my heart early Friday morning that I should be here,” she said. “From now on, this will be an annual event for my family. It’s so important for us to do our part in helping to make sure this does not happen to others.”

County Commissioner Jimmy Barron said those who take their own lives were hurting inside and, many times, no one knew.

“Cindy and I walk to help reduce the stigma that is often associated with suicide so those who are suffering will not have to keep it locked up until they think they have no other way out and nobody sees it coming,” Barron said.

Hunter Beck didn’t see his sister’s suicide coming. Although he was 17 years younger, the two of them were close.

“My sister was on drugs. She was scared and overwhelmed,” Beck said. “But, she had a family that loved her and would have stood by her. But there was a blessing in her suicide. Before she died, members of the family were able to talk and pray with her. As they did, the house seemed to be filled with light and for a moment Kim was herself once again.”

Beck said no one knows what battles are going on inside another person.

“The Walk brings awareness that suicide is a serious concern and the importance of getting mental health funding to assist those who are in fighting these ‘secret’ battles,” he said. “When people are depressed, anxious, confused, hurting; we can help make a difference by letting them know that somebody cares.”

Amy Minor, chair of the Out of the Darkness Community Walk, said the annul walk is successful in bringing suicide out of the darkness and into the light.

The tremendous response Sunday to the invitation to come against suicide in a spirit of love was an indication that, although the numbers are still alarming, the stigma surrounding suicide is diminishing.

“The Out of the Darkness Community Walk has continued to grow in numbers over its first four years, especially among the college students,” she said. “We are beginning to understand that suicide is not something that brings shame to that person or that person’s family. Nearly 90 percent of those who commit suicide have a mental illness. Depression is the top risk factor, but there are other mental health disorders that can contribute to suicide. We are beginning to walk out of the darkness and into the light.”