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Hope Wins…I am Alive

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Candlelight walk for Suicide victims and survivors

Suicide is a subject that is often difficult to deal with, and much harder to discuss with other people. Whether it’s having to face the loss of a loved one who committed  suicide – or even perhaps contemplating suicide – it’s a problem that has grown and there is no better way of addressing it but head on.

One way at addressing it was in the form of a candlelight walk that was held Sept. 30, at the McKinley County Courthouse Plaza.

The walk was for those who committed suicide and for those who attempted and survived. The event was sponsored by The Door Gallup Christian Center. Of course, the goal of the event was to let the public know that suicide is not the answer, and that someone does care. And that there is hope.

Dr. Kofi Sallar, a local pharmacist who helped organized the event, said even if one person is touched by the event, it’s well worth the effort.

“I don’t think the impact of the event can be easily measured,” he said. “Our goal was not to necessarily drive down the suicide rates in our community to zero. Our effort is a success if one life is saved because someone was inspired somewhere along the line to intervene in another’s crisis, or if a suicidal individual picked up a phone and called for help.”

Sallar gave an opening address and talked about warning signs as well as risk factors that make it more likely that someone will consider, attempt, or die by suicide. A moment of silence was held for those who have committed suicide as attendees held lit candles in remembrance.

“There’s help for those who need it,” he said. “People on the brink of suicide unfortunately may not or cannot see it that way. What remains then is the personal intervention of those of us who remain – family, friends, or even perfect strangers.”

As the event took place, church members handed out resources to those who came to hear about the topic of suicide, but what really stood out were those individuals who attempted suicide, survived, and gave their account of what happened.

One survivor, Donovan Dez, who was going through the emotions and thoughts of suicide, found himself one night standing on the train tracks here in Gallup.

Going through anxiety, frustration, and panic attacks, he said the world and the people closest to him would be better off without him. That night it was the thoughts of his children that snapped him to reality, and he stepped off of the train tracks in the nick of time.

“I knew the truth when it came down to it; it gave me this uncomfortable fear,” he said. “The thought of my daughters at the time living without their father.”

Dez says that when life gets hard we must be willing to reach out because the greatest response starts with us. How he felt now, and then addressing his story is both uplifting and scary, he says.

“Liberty sums up how I felt about surviving and sharing what God has done for me,” he said. “It brought back negative thoughts, had a bit of shame in the beginning, afterwards it struck me knowing that many people in our area deal with this issue on a consistent basis.”

Today Dez’s life has changed drastically because of his faith, and he now has a sense of peace and that there is hope for folks contemplating suicide.

Another suicide survivor who shared her story is Judith Hoskie, who during one evening in December 2013, was contemplating suicide.

With her marriage falling apart, and feeling like her life was a huge mess, she was crestfallen. That night her plan was to say goodbye to loved ones, text her husband to tell him to never leave her children. She just wanted to the pain and hurt to end. However, her plan was thwarted by a simple call from a pastor asking how she was doing.

“His first words were how was I doing; I burst into tears, but no words came out,” she said, “That night, that phone call changed my life forever.”

Hoskie says there is hope out there and her belief in a higher power is the hope that saved her that night.

“I want people to know that there’s hope, no matter how lost and desperate they think they are,” she said. “There’s many people on the reservation who think there’s no way out, that there’s absolutely no hope, to which they think suicide is the answer. I have peace within my heart to speak openly about it.”

Hoskie hopes that her testimony will give others hope and believes that the miracle she was given will be passed on to another precious soul.

Onlookers came forward as they listened to the stories of these suicide survivors, hoping to learn more on how they could do their part in stopping suicide.

One such attendee is Geneva Valesquez.

“I had attempted suicide three times, and I wanted to desperately make sense of my broken life,” she said. “I believe there is hope and we can be that hope to someone by simply asking how they are doing.”

There are plenty of resources for those who are contemplating suicide. One is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

You can get a hold of someone 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. A skilled, trained crisis worker is there to help you, they are there to listen to you, understand how your problem is affecting you, provide support, and share any resources that may be helpful.

By Dee Velasco
For the Sun