Walking to Keep Brendan’s Legacy Alive

January 20, 2010 was the day our lives changed forever. Before that day, we had never heard of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Six and a half years later, we are forever grateful for the healing opportunities the organization has provided us as survivors of suicide loss.

My son, Brendan, was an amazing young man with many talents and interests. He was very independent and an excellent problem solver. The one problem he was never able to figure out was how to deal with his depression.

Brendan struggled with ADD and depression for a number of years, and even though he had been receiving treatment from a psychiatrist, at the young age of 24 he lost his battle.We never imagined that he would consider suicide an option but apparently something must have made the darkness unbearable for Brendan which led him to take his own life

As parents in the wake of a son’s suicide, we have always wanted to be open and honest about his death. It has always been our hope that by sharing Brendan’s story, we could bring awareness about mental health issues and suicide prevention. We take every opportunity to share our story in the hopes that it will help others dealing with the aftermath of a suicide, or with the challenges presented by having a friend or family member who struggles with depression. It seems as though the stigma associated with mental health conditions is slowly being chipped away.

AFSP has been a lifesaver by providing us with many healing opportunities. One that has become extremely important to us is the Out of the Darkness Community Walks. We have been blessed to have a wonderful support group of friends and family who have made it a tradition to walk with us each year. This November will mark our seventh Out of the Darkness Community Walk in Atlanta. We walk each year because we want to honor Brendan’s memory … because we want to help raise awareness… and because we realize how important research in the area of suicide prevention is to saving lives. The funds raised at these events enable that important research to continue on.

We strongly believe in AFSP’s mission and appreciate all that they have accomplished. AFSP-funded research has produced ground-breaking new information for the field, and their goal to reduce the annual suicide rate in the U.S. 20 percent by 2025 is one we support 100%!

Asking for donations is definitely out of our comfort zone. Yet Team Brendan’s combined efforts have resulted in raising over $30,000! Facebook has been the main outlet we’ve used to raise awareness and ask for support. For the past three years, we’ve tried to post on a weekly basis as we get close to the date of the next walk. We’ve also tried to add some interest by incorporating videos. The videos we make are by no means professional, but hopefully what we lack in technical expertise is made up for by our well-meaning intentions.

One year we played off of Geico’s entertaining Camel/Hump Day commercial.

The next year, we put our own special spin on the “Ice Bucket Challenge.”

Finally, this last year we combined some Did You Know graphics from AFSP with music as a means of educating and raising awareness while asking for donations.

In addition to the fundraising we’ve done on behalf of Team Brendan, we have also organized several fundraising efforts to benefit our AFSP’s Georgia chapter as a whole. These include “Give Back Nights” at local restaurants through which 10-20% of sales for the day are donated if the patron indicates that they are supporting AFSP.

Another initiative we’ve started is with Kroger. Individuals are able to link their Kroger Plus Card to AFSP’s Georgia Chapter so that a percentage of their purchases over the year benefit our chapter.

Last but not least, we set up a page on the Bravelets fundraising site, which enables you to raise money for every item sold.

Through our involvement with AFSP, we have gradually been able to pick up the pieces and move forward. Our lives changed forever the day we lost Brendan, and there will always be a huge void in our family that cannot be filled. It is important for us to find a way for something good to come from Brendan’s tragic death. To keep his legacy alive, we strive to make a difference by participating in activities and events offered by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention that help take the stigma away from mental health issues and suicide. It amazes us to discover how many others have been touched in one way or another by depression and/or suicide. It is our hope that by sharing our story, we will encourage others to reach out with compassion and understanding to those who are caught in the grips of chronic depression, and offer them support along the way.

It may be too late for our son, but if we can help save lives, Brendan will not have died in vain.

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