My friend invited me to volunteer with him at an event he volunteers at annually, called the ‘Out of Darkness’ Walk hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).

I worked a station passing out beads, where each color meant something different.  People selected beads based on what they experienced or wished to support.  It wasn’t until almost the end of the event that I took an opportunity to look at what each color meant:

  • White – loss of a child
  • Red – loss of a partner or spouse
  • Orange – loss of a sibling
  • Gold – loss of a parent
  • Purple – loss of a relative
  • Silver – loss of a first responder / military
  • Teal or Turquoise – Supporting someone who struggles or has attempted
  • Green – a personal struggle or attempt
  • Blue – general support
  • Rainbow – I think this may have been for LBTGQ support.  They started to wipe off the board which ones ran out so although I think I mentioned all of them, I may have missed 1 or 2 on this list.  I don’t recall this one running out, but maybe it did.

The first two people who came up after I started learning the colors were family members – an adolescent boy and his aunt.  The boy had lost his parent, and the aunt had lost her sibling.  It hits different when you know the meanings of the beads and you encounter people when they are choosing the beads.

I later recalled the colors I thought were most requested: blue, teal/turquoise, purple (we ran out of this one)

The second set of colors I thought were most requested: green, orange, white

For the colors I have mentioned as ‘second’ or did not mention, please note that all of the colors were given out multiples times.

After being at an event filled with people who had experienced the loss of someone special through suicide or wanted to support someone struggling with suicide, it made me realize how much we do not discuss it in daily life.  It can be easy to not realize how many people struggle, and furthermore how many people have already passed, until you go to an event like this.

If you are struggling with the decision to keep going in life, go to ASFP’s website and find an upcoming walk or marathon event near you, and utilize other resources offered on their website.  Don’t just do the walk/run though.  When you’re at the event, take the time to visit the vendors and the other things set up around or right outside the vendors.

I do not want to spoil it for you by telling you all that is there, because I think it’s another type of experience (better in my opinion) if you go without fully knowing what to expect.  But I will share a few things:

1) People can still miss loved ones decades later after they commit suicide, and this event seems to be a way for them to continue to grieve and show love to them.

2) The people who had committed suicide varied in age, gender, hair color, etc.

3) While I was looking at shirts at another vendor table, a guy came up and started talking to the volunteers.  I happened to be right next to him.  He said he just typically jogs around the park where the event was, and I think he had just finished a jog because I could see sweat on his shirt.  He had no idea the event was occurring today, but he came in upon noticing it.  He went on to say that his girlfriend died by suicide a year ago, the past couple of months have just been hard for him, and he misses her.  He was crying as he talked.  I hugged him.  This was the only story I heard, but it was memorable.  There were so many people there, so I know there were several more stories.

The world can be like a public bathroom.  It can come with pretty flowers on the wallpaper but have a terrible smell.  On some days, or many days, the smell is so bad you might want to decide you’re going to hold your urine and walk right back out because you literally can’t stand the smell to the point that you may want to vomit.  Some days there might be someone else’s vomit on the floor already.  But there can be days where all is well in the public bathroom.  You do your business and then you leave.  You may even notice a nice smell, you like how the soap and water come out, and you like the smell and color of the soap.  You may hear something funny from someone else in the bathroom and get a good laugh.  ….I wonder if you will think of this article whenever you use a public bathroom now haha.

You may have figured out based on my public bathroom analogy that my view on suicide is a bit different.  So I will now tell you something a friend of mine was told when he was struggling that may help you or that you may need to think further on how it can help you: “If you are going to stay, you might as well do what you want to do.”

Now, if you missed your chance at pro football and you’re 47 years old, if that’s what you want to do, that may be far-fetched, but maybe you can play flag football or be a regular tailgater, or maybe there is something else out there for you to do that may be interesting and you have to be an explorer for a little while to find it.  That’s one definition of an explorer.  They don’t always know what they are going to find, but they know it when they find it, and the exploration process itself can be priceless.

Another quote I have come across several times now that may be helpful: “Not all those who wander are lost.”  I know what it’s like to be lost for a long time.  What I found out is that you can search or explore for so long that you no longer care as much about the result, because the high becomes the exploration itself.

A 90+ yo woman told me she did not find her purpose until 70 years old, but she did not mention being previously upset about it.  She seemed like she was okay with it and said “just enjoy the journey.”  Because the world can be like a horribly smelling public bathroom for extended periods of time, this may seem easier said than done, but I still received the meaning.  I still use public bathrooms by the way.

Some other things to keep in mind that you may be currently underestimating that could potentially be game changers for you, or at least give you what you need to keep going:

  • Therapy
  • Super nutritious non-inflammatory diet – remove gluten.  I remove gluten from my clients dealing with the 3 following categories: mental health instability, autoimmune conditions, digestive problems.  Gluten and its negative affects on mental can be readily researched.  I also like to remove dairy and processed foods.
  • Herbs, homeopathy, other supplements, or medications
    • Some items to consider: A really good daily multivitamin/multimineral supplement, Inositol, L-theanine, Vitamin B6, 5-HTP, Albizia julibrissin (Mimosa bark), St. John’s Wort, Adrenal supportive herbs (ex. Licorice, Rhodiola, Schisandra, Eleuthero, Holy Basil, Cordyceps [a good fungus, not an herb])
  • Exercise regularly.  Even if all you can do is a walk, go for that walk.  Push yourself to walk for 30-60 minutes if your body allows.
    • Dance is another good option.  You can do a search for dance/movement therapy.  There are different types.
  • Working with a Naturopathic doctor (ND) who focuses on mental health.  Go to > find a doctor > include ‘mental health’ in the search categories.  Keep in mind that many NDs offer virtual consults now, so if you do not like any doctors in your area you can find another one further away.
    • Your digestive health affects your mental health and vice versa.  If you have digestive problems, work with the ND on this too.  Overgrowth of bacteria or fungi, lack of growth of good bacteria (often supplemented via probiotics), impaired liver or gallbladder function, or compromised structure of the digestive tract can all be factors.
  • Leave your home city, state, or country.  Sometimes you don’t need to leave life, you just need to leave your current location within the planet.  Some people will say ‘wherever you go, there you are’ in an attempt to convey that your internal problems can show up anywhere.  While that is the case, it can also not be the case.  There are several stories of people leaving their home and becoming happier and healthier.

So before you do any type of self harm for the first time or again, go to one of the ASFP events.  I left with a turquoise bead.