Suicide prevention walk held at Ogletree Gap Park
By BRITTANY FHOLER
Members of the Copperas Cove High School DECA organization hosted a suicide prevention candlelight walk Saturday evening at Ogletree Gap Park as part of a nationwide effort to raise awareness and help those affected “Walk Out of the Darkness”.
Every three hours, a person dies by suicide in Texas. Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in Texas and, for people ages 15-34, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death, according to the American foundation for Suicide Prevention website.
Saturday, November 17 was International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day and events were held across the country to raise awareness and promote the prevention of suicide.
At the candlelight walk held Saturday evening, participants had the option to purchase a custom shirt to wear as they held a faux tealight and walked around Ogletree Gap. Funds were also raised to be donated to the AFSP. There was also a table where participants could decorate a rock and write messages of hope or the name of a loved one.
CCHS DECA students Lexy Hollingsworth, Nazhoni Wyss and Luke Avritt organized the event.
Hollingsworth shared that last November, after feeling hopeless and down, she attempted suicide but survived. She said she hoped this walk and event was as helpful to those participating as it was to her.
“This really is like such a big deal to me,” Hollingsworth said. “This is my everything, so thank you.”
Wyss said that she was affected through her dad losing his best friend through suicide. Her dad told her it was too fresh in his mind for him to participate in the walk, she said.
“I’m thinking of him and a lot of my classmates at school- they’re affected by it because you have those thoughts,” Wyss said. “We just want to let them know they’re not alone. They’re never alone.”
The guest speaker at the event was Clarena Tobon, who lost her mother, Maria Guevara, to suicide in on January 13, 2007, when she was 20 and her mother was 38.
“Before then, we didn’t talk about mental health, you know, so this suicide thing was just a complete shock to me,” Tobon said. “I spoke to her that morning, would have never known it was going to happen.”
Tobon became involved with the CCHS DECA chapter three years ago after she helped with a suicide prevention walk in Harker Heights the year before. Tobon said that she thought that it was powerful for the high school students to be involved with raising awareness about suicide prevention.
“I think that, you know, these are the people that my kids are following and for me to think that maybe I’m empowering some of these guys to go out into the universe and maybe eventually help one of my own, it’s just-whatever happens, happens but I’m hoping that that’s the case,” Tobon said.
Towards the end of the event, Tobon shared about the biggest effect the loss of her mother had on her.
“I don’t blame her for what happened because I understand that she felt like her whole life was on fire physically, mentally and her soul- every part of it and the only thing she could think of was how to extinguish that fire, but what I will tell you is that when she left, everything that she felt rolled onto me,” Tobon said. “She has never met my kids, she wasn’t there the day that I got married, she won’t be there to hold my hand during my next crazy experience, she’s not there in any other chapter of my book other than when I say her name.”
Tobon encouraged people to ask their friends and family members ‘Are you okay?’ rather than ‘How are you doing?’ and to be prepared to listen when they choose to respond.
“The last thing you want is for them to not live their next experience like meeting their grandchildren or seeing their daughter or son walk down the aisle or having kids themselves, depending on what age,” Tobon said.
CCHS sophomore Hailey Colbath pushed through tears to share how she was affected by suicide. Colbath shared that in the past year, she had attempted suicide nine times and had been in three different hospitals 14 times.
“I never really thought about what the outcome was or what would actually happen if I wasn’t here,” Colbath said. “I just didn’t want to be alive.”
The last time she was in the hospital, she met her best friend Avery. Colbath explained that it wasn’t until after Avery committed suicide that she fully understood the effect of it and learned how hard it was to lose someone close. Ever since that loss, Colbath has been working to better herself and live for Avery, she said.
“I just want y’all to know that the effect you have on people is bigger than you know,” Colbath told the crowd of several dozen participants.
CCHS counselor and professionally licensed therapist Mimi Lugo shared resources available to download on electronic devices, including several apps such as ASK & Prevent Suicide which is connected to the Suicide Prevention Hotline, MY3 which helps the user plan out who they would contact in a crisis, The Trevor Project which is for members of the LGBTQ community and AFriendAsk which is connected to the Jason Foundation. The number for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).