Murray to hold Walk of Hope

Story by Gisselle HernandezAssistant Features Editor

The Suicide Prevention Coalition of Calloway County is having their first Walk of Remembrance and Tranquility to honor suicide victims at Chestnut Park Saturday.

The one-mile walk, “Warriors of Hope: Fighting for Suicide Awareness and Prevention,” aims to honor those who have committed suicide and offer support to the families who have lost a loved ones.

Pat Harrington, co-chair of the organization and a member of the Murray Womens’ Club, pitched the idea to the organization after her daughter attended a suicide awareness walk in Memphis, Tennessee in 2014. After hearing how wonderful and thrilling it was, she decided to try it out in Murray.

“Murray is such a giving community and suicide is not just a family problem,” Harrington said.  “It’s a community problem and we felt that the community would come out and support us in that.”

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for those  between the ages of 25-34 in Kentucky, according to 2007-2011 statistics by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.

Having been concerned with these statistics, the coalition decided they wanted to do more in helping Calloway County reach its goal of zero suicides.

The coalition is made up of a wide array of members, ranging from Murray State Police to community members. Some members have been directly affected by suicide, having lost loved ones to suicide.

Harrington, whose husband, a Murray State graduate of 1972, committed suicide in Aug. 2014, said that it not only affects the person committing the act but it changes the lives of families left behind as well.

“You’re never the same again,” she said. “You survive until you can live again.”

While the objective of the walk is to raise money toward spreading awareness and educating people about the issue, one of the main messages it hopes to bring across is to speak up.

Harrington said the problem lies in people trying not to talk about it, especially younger people. Middle school students often uphold an “oath to secrecy” to a friend who is having suicidal thoughts.

Harrington said, is young people would rather keep the secret than speak to an adult.

“They don’t have the maturity or foresight to know that their friend might have been mad but might have still been alive if they had said something,” she said.

Often described as a permanent solution to a temporary problem, suicide only creates problems, it doesn’t solve them said the co-chair of the coalition, John Dale, a retired pulpit minister for the Glendale Road Church of Christ in Murray.

Dale, whose mother committed suicide when he was 11 years old, wants to let people know help is always available.

“Suicide, though always an option, is never a good option,” he said.

The walk, which starts at 4 p.m., will include a Remembrance Ceremony where a vase with flowers will be presented to the affected families to honor the loss of their loved one.

There Release Ceremony involves family members writing a message to their loved one on a piece of paper and “releasing” it.

Families are encouraged to bring a photo or framed picture of their lost loved one to display at the Remembrance Ceremony.

Despite the event honoring families who have experienced loss and sharing grief with people who have experienced the same devastation, Harrington said it is to be an event of peace and joy.

“What we want to do with ‘Warriors of Hope’ is to extend hope to those who have thought about suicide, to let them know they are not alone,” she said.

Jennifer Taylor, counselor at Murray State and secretary of the coalition, said there is a group working on forming a Families of Suicide Loss support group where survivors can attend and speak on the grief they have had to face after losing someone to suicide.

It is also to inform people on how to properly react when someone approaches a person with thoughts of suicide, which involves questioning, persuading and referring.

“The first person I knew [who was affected] was a friend in Memphis,” Taylor said. “At that time it was years ago and I didn’t know what to do. I want people to know what to do.”

The donations, which will be made out to the Murray Womens’ Club, will remain in Calloway County to implement trainings in suicide preventions and to distribute information on suicide.

Registration for the walk, which will start and finish in Chestnut Park after one mile, is at 3:30 p.m. and the opening ceremony begins at 4 p.m.