Hundreds attend 5th annual Walk/Remembrance

Published 12:35 am Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Tuesday is World Suicide Prevention Day

TRYON— The community came together Saturday for the 5th annual Walk/Remembrance to honor those in this community that we have lost to suicide and to send the message, “Do Not Lose Hope.” 

A few hundred people attended Saturday’s event at Harmon Field in Tryon. 

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New to this year’s event was pictures hanging of people in this community who lost their battles. 

Polk County Schools Superintendent Aaron Greene, who provided music and words for the event, said he believes strongly in raising awareness and promoting discussion on the mental health issues that confront so many of our young people and people of all ages. 

“The Walk/Remembrance allows us to honor loved ones who lost their battles and to lean on each other as we search for answers and solutions,” Greene said. “Perhaps just as important, it helps create productive dialogue around the issue and removes the stigma that prevents many people from bringing these issues to light.”

Greene said sadly, it affects all of us. 

“I have lost students, family members and friends in the community,” Greene said. “Many people deal with depression and anxiety daily as the hope for a better existence. So, doesn’t it make sense for us to get together and remind everyone we can that we are here for them and not to lose hope? I have great respect for Mary Prioleau, Tamara Black and all the folks who work so hard to make this event special. I feel fortunate to be a small part.” 

Prioleau and Black came together after both losing loved ones to suicide- Prioleau’s daughter, Caroline in 2014 and Black’s brother, Jaheir, in 2015. 

The walk is done every year near World Suicide Prevention Day, which is Sept. 10 and National Suicide Prevention Week, which this year is Sept. 8-14. 

This year’s Walk/Remembrance was organized by Polk Fit, Fresh and Friendly and funded by the Polk County Community Foundation. The walk included a dove release, free food, informational vendors, temporary tattoos, games and the walk to honor loved ones lost. 

Polk County Sheriff Tim Wright said anyone who recognizes that someone is going through a rough time should do something, even if it is to call them for a conversation or ask to take them out. 

On the mental health issue, Wright also said he agrees with what was said Saturday, that just because someone is having suicidal thoughts or is falling on hard times, that does not necessarily mean they have a mental problem. 

“They may just be in bad place,” Wright said. “Nobody is immune. No family is immune. There is a person in every family who has probably died by suicide.”  

Polk County Schools has taken steps to help with the issue. The school system has partnered with Blue Ridge Health for not only physical health but mental health as well. 

Greene said that is one of the biggest issues in schools right now is that students are increasingly impacted by childhood trauma and struggling with depression and anxiety. 

“That was one of the reasons we started the school-based health center was the behavioral side,” Greene said. 

Greene said he was glad to see all the kids at this year’s walk and that we need to make sure they know they need to have conversations. 

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the United States for people age 10-34 and that statistic rings true in Polk County as well. Polk was recently ranked second in the state of North Carolina for suicide.