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Family uses own tragedy to spread awareness

Family uses own tragedy to spread awareness

Airmen assigned to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, and Abilene community members participate in “Out of the Darkness Walk” at Grover Nelson Park in Abilene, Texas, Sept. 14, 2019. As part of the rocks were painted with motivational messages of support and were placed to create an arrow to show participants the walking path. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Colin Hollowell)

Family uses own tragedy to spread awareness

Airmen assigned to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, and Abilene community members participate in “Out of the Darkness Walk” at Grover Nelson Park in Abilene, Texas, Sept. 14, 2019. As part of the rocks were painted with motivational messages of support and were placed to create an arrow to show participants the walking path. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Colin Hollowell)

Family uses own tragedy to spread awareness

Airmen assigned to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas and Abilene community members participate in the “Out of the Darkness Walk” at Grover Nelson Park in Abilene, Texas, Sept. 14, 2019. More than 100 people from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas and the local community came out to participate in support of those affected by suicide. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Colin Hollowell)

Dyess Air Force Base, Texas -- Suicide is an unfortunate reality that many experts strive to expand their knowledge and data on every day. People who have been around this reality generally know more than others.

One Dyess Airman recently married his wife, and also gained her three children. In doing so he gained four people who love him; he also gained four people who need his support, based on a tragedy-filled past.

When Staff Sgt. Marcus Slade, 7th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels training support noncommissioned officer in charge, welcomed his family into his life, they were also overcoming their own tragedy of losing a family member to suicide in 2016. From the start, he did everything he could to love and support his new family while assisting them in healing any way he knew how, although he had no experience in this particular type of tragedy.

Nearly 2 years later, he experienced a similar tragedy. He was notified that a friend had committed suicide. During this time of pain, he had his family to lean on. His family had taught him a lot, even unintentionally. He had learned from them how to feel these emotions that otherwise would have been hard for him to know how to live with, and as he did for his family, they were there for him.

Slade is organizing opportunities with his wife, Patrice, for people to have the hard discussions about suicide.

The Slade’s have experienced one of life’s most painful experiences, but they luckily had each other. They set out to organize and sponsor an “Out of the Darkness” walk in Abilene to help raise awareness and start a conversation, even if it is uncomfortable.

One method to help reduce discomfort may be as simple as opening the door for conversation.
“With the walk we realized that we were not only helping ourselves by talking about it, but by telling people about our story so much we were helping people,” said Marcus. “We’re not just making people aware, we’re actually starting a conversation.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the second leading cause of death of people from the age of 10 to 34 and the fourth leading cause for adults aged 35 to 54. Studies show that from 2001 to 2017 the suicide rates increased 31 percent.

“I want people to see that these numbers we see go up every day are people,” said Marcus. “You see the numbers and you see the things that happened, but when you come to the walk you don’t just see those affected by suicide, you see that they have a face and a name.”

The target audience for the walk extends beyond those who have lost a loved one to suicide or those who have personally had suicidal thoughts. According to a 2017 national survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 4.3 percent of adults in the United States, aged 18 and older, had suicidal thoughts in the year 2017 alone. That’s nearly one in 20 people, but awareness can be extend to everyone.

Patrice Slade is also trying to reach further than just those who have suffered.

“I want everyone to realize it’s a problem,” said Patrice. “A lot of people don’t take it very serious until somebody’s gone.”

For the Slades, organizing a walk served many roles. It helped with healing, spread awareness, provided a safe haven for those affected by suicide and started conversations that many people may find difficult to join. The Slades gave a voice to a topic that can’t speak for itself, in hopes that the conversation finds its way to those who need to hear it, and those who feel like they can’t discuss it. They hope that this event creates an open forum that is carried on outside of the event.