Walk of Hope

By Sydni Anderson, Contributing writer

The second Walk of Remembrance and Tranquility, brought by the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Calloway County, will take place Saturday at 6 p.m. The walk, hosted at Chestnut Park, will be one mile long and feature a remembrance ceremony to honor the lives lost to suicide. The ceremony will include a large vase where people who have lost a loved one can bring a flower to add to it.

The walk also provides a meeting ground for survivors of suicide loss. Jennifer Taylor, Murray State counselor and the secretary of the coalition, said the walk not only promotes suicide awareness, but can unite affected families.

“People can talk about their loved one if they want to. People who have lost someone, we call them survivors of suicide loss, can have other families or people who have had that experience,” she said. “They can see that there’s a lot of people that have the same experience they did to connect them.”

The coalition formed a couple years ago, after the death of county attorney David Harrington. One of Harrington’s good friends, John Dale got in touch with Pat Harrington, David’s wife, and took action.

“We decided just talking that there are many other people that deal with this and it would be good to have something of a support group among people in the community to address suicide and help people who struggle with it themselves, people who tend to see temptation in it or people who are coping with it having had it in their family,” he said.

They reached out to others and put together a meeting to gauge community interest. About 60 people attended the first meeting, including professionals who came to help. From there, it grew into a monthly meeting.

Last year was the first year that the Walk of Remembrance and Tranquility occurred. Just like at the first Suicide Prevention Coalition meeting, Dale said the community reaction was great. More than 100 people registered for the event, and even more attended. This year, the Suicide Prevention Coalition will be giving out T-shirts to those who have pre-registered for the walk and will be taking donations. Active Minds, an organization focusing on mental health, will have an information table, as well as several other organizations.

In addition to honoring those lost to suicide, another goal of the walk is to spread awareness. Shayna Allred, alumna of Murray State, was affected by suicide when a friend of hers from middle school took his life two and a half years ago. She said that people don’t know the signs of suicide and that it’s a lot more common than they think.

Taylor said people need to realize it’s a community problem.

“In fact, this Purchase Area has the highest suicide rate of anywhere in this state,” she said.

According to the Kentucky Department of Vital Statistics, the rate per 100,000 population of the Purchase Jackson Area in 2010 was 19.8 compared to the Kentucky average rate of 14.2.

One way to address this problem is by actively talking about it. Pat Harrington, co-chair of the Suicide Prevention Coalition, said she believes one of the best ways to advocate for suicide awareness is by sharing experiences.

“If we can take what has happened to our family and help somebody else who is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts or have someone who has gone through that to live just one more day,” she said.