Despite the rain and cold weather on Friday evening, a crowd gathered into tents outside of Jackson City Hall. The weather matched the somber occasion, a candlelight vigil for suicide awareness and prevention. The community event was organized by the family of Tripp Carter who tragically took his own life in June. Since his death, Carter’s family has made it their mission to increase community awareness of the horrible realities of losing a loved one to suicide, the stigma of mental illness and the warning signs of a downward emotional spiral that could possibly lead to suicide.
Living through the loss of a loved one to suicide is never something that anyone imagines will happen in their own family. However, according to statistics, one death by suicide occurs every 12 minutes in America. Suicide is a major public health concern and it is preventable.
As the crowd gathered, pictures of loved ones lost to suicide were placed on tables and names were written on paper butterflies that were attached to a remembrance wall. Encouraging songs were played as those in attendance gazed at the wall and the photographs and then quietly gathered colored honor beads to wear. The honor beads were to signify a personal connection to the cause and most people wore more than one set. The colors available indicated the connections: White – lost a child; Red – lost a spouse or partner; Gold – lost a parent; Orange – lost a sibling; Purple – lost a relative or friend; Silver – lost first responder or member of the military; Green – struggled personally; Blue – support the cause; Teal – friends and family of someone who struggles currently.
Members of the community gathered at Jackson City Hall Friday night for a candlelight vigil in memory of friends and family members lost to suicide and to extend support for anyone struggling with depression.
Pastor Braxton Eldridge of Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Wagarville welcomed the crowd and gave a brief devotion on comfort and told those gathered, “It’s up to us to break this chain and help these hurting people find hope.”
Following Eldridge’s remarks, Courtney Carter Weaver, the sister of Tripp Carter, addressed the crowd. Weaver provided the statistical data for suicides in America and challenged those in attendance to remember that “Beyond these statistics are human lives.”
Weaver stated that her goal in planning the event was to help anyone who was struggling realize that resources are available to help them cope. Weaver and her mother, Ann Carter, discussed the warning signs of suicide and encouraged those in attendance to be mindful of these as they interact daily with family and friends. “This is not a joke. I wish every day that we had seen more signs,” Carter stated tearfully, stating that she knew her son battled privately with depression, but no one would have ever guessed it due to his gregarious nature.
Several in attendance shared publicly how their lives had been changed forever when they received the news that a loved one had committed suicide. Each one pleaded for more awareness and less judgement of individuals who struggle with depression.
The ceremony ended with prayer and the singing of “Amazing Grace.” Survivors held their candles, shining light in honor of lives lost and hoping to shed light on a problem that has affected the community deeply.
The National Center for Suicide Prevention has a hotline available 24 hours a day,call 1-800-273-8255.
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