It was a warm summer night in August. August 9, 2015, to be exact. As I was settling in for the night with my family, my phone rang at 10:01 P.M.
“Mirranda,” a voice on the other end told me, “Something has happened to your little brother. They need you to come to his apartment.”
My brother’s apartment was 20 minutes away. It felt like it took hours to get there.
As I arrived, a police officer greeted me and said, “I’m sorry to inform you, your brother Collton Church has taken his own life.”
At that moment, my life changed forever.
I participated in my first Out of the Darkness Walk just three weeks after my brothers passing, in Oneonta, New York. I was nervous when I showed up that Saturday morning, still feeling like I was in a bit of a blur, and not quite sure what to expect.
I registered along with about 20 other people who walked with me in my brother’s memory. I cried from the amount of support given to my family not just from my teammates, but from all of the AFSP members there that day, all of whom knew someone who had died by suicide. We were all there for the same reason.
The walks are emotional. They are full of people walking in someone’s memory. They can all relate, in one way or another, to the way you’re feeling.
That was where my journey with AFSP began. The Out of the Darkness Walks are a way to find support, let your guard down, and be accepted with open arms as a survivor. It’s educational, emotional, and supportive.
From that day forward, I knew that I wanted to get involved. I felt I had to help raise awareness, end the stigma, and educate others about suicide prevention.
I started volunteering for AFSP as much as I could in the South Central chapter. In July of this year, I was nominated and appointed to the board.
It is so important, in my opinion, that we reach out and help raise awareness about suicide prevention every day. I do this by carrying my “Be the Voice” #StopSuicide water bottle, my Out of Darkness wrist bands, and my Lifesaver pin. I advertise our products and resources to anyone and everyone.
I continue, along with the help and support of so many other people in my chapter, to raise awareness in any way I can. I hold fundraisers for “Team Collton,” and I am working with our local school to help educate and raise awareness with kids. Every day, I ponder new ways to “Be the Voice.”
So many people tell me how strong I am, and say that they couldn’t do what I have done in such a short amount of time. But raising awareness for suicide and mental health has become my passion…and it has helped with my grieving. I never want anyone to feel alone, and I will continue to do my best to make sure that they don’t.