First Suicide Prevention Walk/Remembrance set for Sept. 12; Friends brought together by tragedy organize event

Published 12:04 pm Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The reason two friends met this year may be heartbreaking, but the mission they are on could save lives in the Polk County community.

Tamara Black and Mary Wells Prioleau became friends after the two lost loved ones to suicide this year.

The first Suicide Prevention Walk/Remembrance will be held at Harmon Field in Tryon next Saturday, Sept. 12 from 6-8 p.m.

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“We just know that mental illness is real,” says Black. “It no longer needs to be hidden and people don’t need to feel like they need to hide in silence.”

Black lost her brother, Jaheir “Jah” Ford in February this year and Prioleau lost her daughter, Caroline Wesley, in October last year.

Black and Prioleau met through Facebook. Jah and Caroline were friends at Polk County High School. Both would have been 22 years old.

The walk/remembrance is to raise awareness of mental illness and suicide in the area.

The theme of the walk is “Do not lose hope.” The message holds a special place in Prioleau’s heart as those were the last words Caroline wrote.

Next Saturday’s event will include 80 T-shirts and 100 temporary “semi-colon project” tattoos that will be given away. The project represents a movement dedicated to presenting hope and love to those who struggle with depression, self-injury and suicide. A semicolon is used when an author could have ended a sentence, but chose not to.

Businesses and individuals have already volunteered to support the project and provide food and beverages for the event, including free hotdogs, beverages and energy bars.

The event is being held during National Suicide Prevention Week, which is Sept. 7-12.

As a follow-up to the walk/remembrance, the National Alliance on Mental Illness will present a panel discussion on Monday, Oct. 5 at Isothermal Community College (ICC) at 5:30 p.m. The panel will discuss suicide from the viewpoint of a person who has considered ending their lives, a family member who has lost a child to suicide and two mental health professionals. Resource literature will be available there as well.

Black said following her brother’s death, Prioleau reached out to her mother and the family became friends through their tragedies and began talking about how to help others to prevent suicide.

The two say they are amazed and grateful of all the support the event has received so far.

“It’s an illness,” Black said. “It’s a disease. It takes over your brain and your mind and people need to start recognizing it.”

Suicide is the 10th cause of death in the United States and second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15-24.

For more information about next Saturday’s walk/remembrance contact Black at 828- 216-4477 or Prioleau at 828-899-9699 or find the event on Facebook through Walk/Remembrance Event.

“It is time to end the silence, end the stigma and shine hope onto those who suffer with depression/mental illness,” states the walk/remembrance brochure.