BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB)– Sadly, suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth in the United States. In order to create awareness and strengthen the fight against suicide, the entire month of September is Suicide Prevention Month.
Karen Abrahams never thought her son, Alex was struggling mentally and experiencing suicidal thoughts.
“He was a typical teenage boy. He had a job, a girlfriend, and he was a senior in high school.”
The then 17-year-old Mosley High School senior had big dreams to join the U.S. Coast Guard upon his high school graduation.
But like so many others who die due to suicide, Alex was struggling more than he let on.
“When I came home Alex was gone. He had taken his own life in my backyard.”
Now, Karen only has pictures to remember who son, who died almost 15 years ago. After Alex’s death, she soon realized the need for more resources for those struggling with their mental health, and sought to raise awareness to the issue of suicide.
“Several friends of his told me that had I not been there to talk to them out of it, they would’ve taken their own lives.”
This motivated her to share Alex’s story despite the pain it brings. She later went on to create the S.P.A.R.E. coalition which stands for Suicide Prevention Awareness Response and Education.
“Maybe we can save a life, and maybe another family doesn’t have to go through what I went through.”
The organization hosts monthly meet-ups and brings together mental health providers, suicide survivors, and concerned citizens in hopes those struggling know they aren’t alone.
“So many people are scared to talk about it (suicide) but we need to talk about it because it does open the door for people to seek help and get treatment,” said Kristina Williams, the event chair for the S.P.A.R.E. Bridge of Hope Walk.
Williams said there are many resources community members can take advantage of including a new nationwide suicide hotline.
“If someone is experiencing substance abuse challenges, mental health challenges or suicidal thoughts those crisis centers are available by dialing 988,” she said.
According to the Florida Department of Health, Bay County ranks 14th in the state for most suicide deaths.
Tim Bedford, CEO of Emerald Coast Behavioral Hospital, said parents and family members should be aware of key warning signs.
“People isolating, disconnecting, or changes in behavior.”
Bedford recommends once you notice these warning signs to break the stigma and discuss mental health challenges with your loved ones.
“So as family members please communicate with your kids and adult family member,” he said.
The S.P.A.R.E. organization will host their 10th annual Bridge of Hope Walk on Sept. 17th at Leslie Porter Park in Lynn Haven. Registration begins at 8:30 and the actual walk begins at 9:00 a.m. For more information click here.