NEW BETHLEHEM – The Redbank Valley turned a shade of purple last week as the Clarion County Coalition for Suicide Prevention held its annual Suicide Awareness Walk in New Bethlehem on Thursday, Sept. 8.
With many wearing purple shirts, a large group gathered at Gumtown Park for a short program before walking en mass along Water and Broad streets to bring awareness to a public health issue that is too often not talked about.
The eighth annual event, typically held in Clarion, was scheduled for New Bethlehem in 2020, but was limited to a “virtual” walk due to the pandemic.
“No matter how long it has been, the pain is still very real for all of us,” guest speaker Kim Daugherty told the crowd, many of whom have lost loved ones to suicide.
Daughtery and her family experienced that loss in December 2010 with the death of her son, Logan, a student at Keystone High School.
“We have been suicide survivors for almost 12 years now,” she said. “They call us suicide survivors and that’s because we have endured and continue to endure to live with the traumatic deaths of our sons, our daughters, our parents and our friends. We’re surviving through the pain and guilt and all of the other emotions that go along with suicide.”
Daughtery, a Knox-area resident, said that the stories of those lost to suicide need to be told.
“There was no chance to say goodbye,” she said. “You just wake up one morning and your life is changed forever.”
She said that leading up to her son’s death, Logan was starting a new high school basketball season, had just finished his Eagle Scout project and was making plans to attend Indiana University of Pennsylvania to study police science.
“He was planning for his future,” she said. “By 5 a.m. the next morning ... a horrible reality confronted us.
“He had a full rich life, and his death was so out of character,” she added. “It was a nightmare.”
She encouraged others in the crowd to share their stories of how suicide has impacted their lives, and the stories of those lost too soon.
Daughtery said that before her son’s suicide, she didn’t know much about suicide or its warning signs. She said a lot has opened up and changed in the past 12 years with more programs in schools, public events like the one last week and other information available to help educate people.
“It is being addressed in schools,” she said. “Today, I see hope.”
Daughtery also thanked all those who work in crisis prevention, including the various agencies on hand with information and more at the New Bethlehem event.
“You are the ones who are making a difference,” she said.
Those at the event encouraged anyone in need of help to call the new suicide and crisis lifeline at 988, or the local number at (814) 226-7223, or to text 63288.
For more information, visit www.clarionsuicideawareness.com.