A walk in Saturday morning’s bright sunlight symbolized moving out of the darkness into the light for supporters of Ashe Suicide/Depression Awareness and Prevention Task Force (ASAP).
The annual event had a different venue this year as walkers took to the streets of West Jefferson, beginning and ending at Backstreet Park.
Speaker J.P. Jameson talked about the “frightening” statistics of suicide in Ashe County, with the highest per capita rate of suicide in the state, double that of the state and nation. It is a public health crisis and an ongoing community health problem, he said.
“I hope you see your neighbors supporting you and your path to the future so don’t forget but work toward a solution,” Jameson said. “I am happy to walk with you today and happy to walk with you in the future.”
Cullie Tarleton was also a speaker at the event, telling the crowd of about 40 participants that “suicide is a vicious and terrible way to die, usually alone.”
Tarleton said his father was a victim of suicide at 35 years old, when Cullie was only 10. A victim, Tarleton said, because suicide is not the act of a rational person but someone who has lost hope. He said he has two friends who survived suicide attempts and with proper treatment are today happy, life-loving individuals.
“That’s why it’s good to see the community involved,” Tarleton said. “Your work will save lives. Is anything more important?”
Michael Lea talked about how the community can provide awareness and support. “This walk is symbolic,” he said, “that we walk this journey together, out of darkness into light and hope.” And ASAP is there to provide support and encouragement to those in crisis and their loved ones.
MaKayla Church performed a moving dance to Rascal Flatts’ “Why?” and led by members of Ashe County Middle School’s 5 Mile Club, the walkers set off on their journey, returning to the park for a story from Ken Morris and a circle of hope to remember those lost to suicide and their grieving loved ones.
For help, call 246-HEAL, a 24-hour crisis line. For information about ASAP and meetings, call 846-0781.