OAK HILL — September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month — a time to raise awareness on this stigmatized and often taboo topic.
National Suicide Prevention Week is set for Sept. 5–11.
Throughout the month, and especially during the week of Sept. 5, individuals and organizations highlight the problem of suicide and advocate its prevention.
Locally, Jeremy and Tammy Sharp, both of Oak Hill, who lost their 14-year-old son Joseph to suicide, have planned a suicide awareness event called “Fight For Life.”
The Sharps shared their son’s story with the local media.
“My husband and I lost our son on April 8, 2020, to suicide,” said Tammy. “It was during the COVID-19 shutdown.”
Tammy said, “Joseph was 14-years-old, and it was the first time he was home alone. We both have to work to pay our bills. We had to make sure Joseph had what he needed. My husband and I thought he would be fine because of his age, and he has always been a mature young man.”
Tammy went on to say that along with being mature, Joseph had always been kind, loving and compassionate.
“All he ever wanted was for everyone to be happy and to get along with each other,” recalled Tammy. “A few months before his death, he had been telling me the world was ugly and that was our only sign something was wrong.”
Tammy said, “He had been witnessing his friends being bullied, and it bothered him deeply. Joseph truly cared about others. Joseph’s time alone gave him time to think about all he had been seeing at school and in the world. A few months after we lost him, we were both overwhelmed with the desire to prevent others from the suffering we’re going through. Suicide isn’t something a family will ever recover from or get past. We learn to live with it.”
The Sharps explained that they learned to respond to the question, “Do you have any children?”
“That’s one I always have to answer fighting back the tears,” explained Tammy. “My response is always yes but, in my mind it’s, ‘Yes, he’s in heaven waiting on me.’”
Tammy added, “Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24-year-olds and the second leading cause of death among college students. A life is lost to suicide every 12.8 minutes in the United States. Those numbers are sickening.”
The event, planned by the Sharp family, will be held at Aetna Park in Oak Hill on Saturday, Sept. 11, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. There will be live bands, open mic times for kids, a nerf obstacle course and bracelet making. There will also be bean and hot dog dinners, a bake sale and a silent auction. Representatives from Children’s Hospital and Connective Clinical Counseling will be in attendance.
The Sharps have welcomed a few other families on board to help with this fight.
“They have each lost a family member to suicide,” Tammy said.
Lois Henry lost her son Shawn; Sara Strickland lost her son Dylan; and Heather Nix lost her husband Jason.
“We pray we can help families, who are hurting financially because a parent is having to stay home with a child due to suicidal ideations,” said Tammy. “If we could prevent the suffering of one family, it would all be worth it.”
The Sharp family has been working tirelessly for several months to put on this suicide awareness event to bring awareness, information and support to the local community.
The Facebook link for this event can be found here https://fb.me/e/13YxENDfv.