Janie Rippetoe, representative of the Caliente Behavioral Health Services, said around 18 participants joined in the walk to raise awareness for suicide prevention this year. “I feel it was more successful than last year,” Rippetoe told the Record. Last year, around a dozen participants joined the cause.
At the beginning of the gathering, Rippetoe gave a speech explaining why they were walking: to help the Nevada Coalition for Suicide prevention “increase community awareness on the prevalence of mental health issues, the impact of suicide and the importance of intervention and prevention work.”
Recognizing and remembering the husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, children, and other family members and friends who have fallen victim to suicide, the crowd heard stories of what it was like for those who have had a loved one that has taken their own life, how support and hope is found, and how to recognize warning signs of depression and other mental illnesses that lead up to suicide attempts.
She read stories from the family members of suicide victims, and their hardships on dealing with the situation.
Caliente resident Justin Barrow shared his story about his personal suicide attempt 10 years ago. Barrow produced a book, “Life with Ziggy,” as a memoir about how he was, “overwhelmed and overcome by the insidiousness of depression,” according to his website, lifewithziggybook.blogspot.com. Barrow adopted a malnourished, abused and scared pit bull/basenji mix that was scheduled to be put down by a shelter. Together, the pair rescued each other in their hour of need. Barrow told the Record, “He was 30 pounds underweight, and I thought his outside appearance reflected my inside.I knew I needed something to help me, and thought a dog would be a good thing.”
“I thought the walk was awesome, I just wish more people had shown up. That’s our goal for next year,” Barrow said.
The book, which has been highlighted in Las Vegas and Boulder City newspapers, was Barrow’s attempt to help people, and now he receives calls from schools around the state and in Utah to speak to classes about depression and other mental illnesses.
He said, “the more people we have out there, the more people are aware of signs of suicide and depression, and what it entails to make a difference.”
Barrow noted that although Ziggy was a big help, he started talking with counselors, psychiatrists, and was prescribed medication for his depression. Now, 10 years later, he relies on no medication or doctors. He still writes as his therapeutic tool, and shares what hope lies beyond the depression that succumbs victims.
Barrow’s desire to help raise awareness, he said, “is to let people know they can talk about it, that it’s okay.” He credits his friends and family’s assistance in helping him seek counseling to work through his depression and anxiety, and their willingness to talk about it with him about the subject.
“It is a difficult subject for people to talk about. I suggest getting aware to be more comfortable talking about it. Society kind of sweeps it under a rug and hopes it goes away. A lot of the stigmas associated with mental health are inaccurate and don’t apply,” Barrow said.
After living in Lincoln County for the last year, Barrow works at the Caliente Youth Center as a training officer for the staff on how to work with the youth and help the staff understand what the juveniles might be going through, as well as recognizing signs of depression. He shares his own experiences to help others understand anxiety and depression.
Although the thought of suicide is a sensitive subject, Barrows pushed the hope side of it, encouraging others not to be afraid to ask someone for help, and for others not to be afraid to ask about suicide. “It’s never wrong to ask anyone if they think about suicide. Asking is the most effective way, and let’s the person you’re talking to know that you feel comfortable talking and that they’re there,” Barrow said.
First time attendant Mary Cordle, also from Caliente, said, “I think it was the best thing to happen around here. I’d like to see more people show up.”
Rippetoe posted signs around the path with statistics and other info, such as the 24-hour hotline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or the text line by texting “answer” to 839863. “So today,” Rippetoe said, “let us remember those who have died by suicide and work to protect those who remain.”