Cheryl Stockwell was sitting in the Commission on Aging booth at the Fayette County Fair. There was a lull between the parades of fairgoers visiting the Mahan Building, so she took advantage of the quiet time by reading a book. The subdued hum of people shuffling through the building was interrupted by a voice that spoke up at her booth.
“Aren’t you embarrassed?” the person asked. Cheryl looked up and saw a lady motioning to a sign. “Doesn’t the sign bother you?” she continued, “especially considering your situation?”
“My situation?” Cheryl thought to herself. She took a moment to gather her thoughts.
“The sign doesn’t embarrass me,” she replied. After all, she had been the one who chose to prominently display the sign, promoting the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, at her booth.
Although Cheryl was not familiar with the person standing before her, and wasn’t sure how or what the stranger knew about her “situation,” she took the opportunity to share a message that had been weighing on her heart. “I want my son’s death to mean something,” she said. “I want his life to mean something. If even one person can be helped, I want to do that.”
The situation that was being referred to was the loss of Cheryl and Creg Stockwell’s youngest son, Derek. Despite suffering one of the most painful situations that a parent could experience – the loss of a child by suicide – Cheryl has committed herself to sharing her family’s story and to bringing this issue to light. “I don’t want people to walk on eggshells,” she said, “I want to get rid of the stigma.”
There is a group in Fayette County who, like Cheryl, is on a mission to bring hope to those who need it and would love for others in the community to do the same. The Fayette County Suicide Prevention Coalition works to educate the community and reduce the stigma around talking about mental health issues so that anyone – and everyone – can be a light in the dark.
And so, the idea for a glow walk was born. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The first annual “A Light In The Dark” Glow Walk will take place on Saturday, September 23, 2023. This event will be held at the Washington High School track and begins at 7:30 p.m.
“A Light in the Dark” is being planned to honor, remember, educate, offer hope and resources, and remind people that they are not alone. This walk is for those whose lives have been affected by suicide. It is for the families left behind. It is for anyone who is currently struggling with mental health issues, who needs to know where to turn, or who needs to know that they are not alone and that someone cares. This walk is also for everyone in the community who wants to support, encourage, and uplift those in our community who are hurting.
From 2012-2022, there were 28 suicide deaths in Fayette County. In the first six months of 2023, within our small community, we have already suffered five more losses. This has affected males and females, old and young, from 14 to 89. The data shows that five Ohioans die by suicide every day, and one youth dies every 34 hours.
Nationally, among veterans between the ages of 18–44, suicide was the second-leading cause of death in 2020, according to the 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported suicide as among the top 9 leading causes of death for people ages 10-64. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-14 and 20-34.
“It is our hope that by bringing attention to this and other mental health issues, those fighting a daily fight will also attend the event to get support,” said Cheryl Stockwell. “I’m working hard to make sure that nobody else lives through this.”
Cheryl’s mission, as well as the mission of the coalition, is clear. “We have to get rid of the stigma,” she said. “We have to. We need to try to get the word out that there is so much help out there. So many people are hurting but they won’t do anything about it because they’re afraid that maybe they’ll lose their job or they are worried about the ‘what ifs.’”
It is the hope of the coalition that this walk will increase awareness of the resources and support that can be found in Fayette County.
Registration opened on August 14 and ends on September 5. The first 50 participants to sign up for the walk will receive swag bags. Everyone who registers by the September 5 deadline will get a t-shirt. Luminaries in honor or remembrance of loved ones will be available for $2 each. Anyone interested in participating can register here.
A unique keepsake will be available in the form of an acrylic “raindrop” that will be a part of an umbrella display by Lorre Black Umbrellas. Memorial raindrops will be available for purchase ahead of the event. The cost is $20. Contact Cheryl Stockwell at 740-335-2159 by September 8 to purchase this keepsake.
Sponsors and Resources
The group is currently seeking sponsors for the walk. Local individuals, businesses, or organizations that would like to sponsor this event or donate in-kind (gift cards, swag bag items, water, snacks, giveaways) are asked to call Harley Dawson or Missy Smith at Fayette County Public Health (740-335-5910). Organizations that would like to set up a table at this event are asked to contact Harley or Missy at that number as well.
About Fayette County Suicide Prevention Coalition
FCSPC was formed in 2019. Members include community agency representatives, clergy, community members, and family and friends of those who have died by suicide.
Since its inception, the coalition has accomplished the following:
● Created care packages to provide to families in Fayette County who were affected by a suicide death
● Provided awareness information at community events
● Purchased billboard messaging to promote the 988 Suicide Crisis Lifeline
● Sponsored QPR Gatekeeper training. QPR is designed to train anyone how to offer hope and take action when they are concerned that someone may be at risk for suicide.) Future plans include:
● Reducing stigma around the utilization of mental health resources
● Promotion of the 988 Suicide Crisis Lifeline as well as local resources
● Support and promotion of programs in the schools
For more information about the coalition or the walk, follow the Fayette County Suicide Prevention Coalition on Facebook.