September can be a difficult month for anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide, as this month is National Suicide Prevention Month.
This month certainly hits hard for Polk County resident Mary Prioleau, who lost her daughter, Caroline deRossett Wesley, to suicide on October 29, 2014.
In 2015, Prioleau started the “Do Not Lose Hope” movement in the county. That phrase was the last thing written in a note her daughter left. The hope of the movement is to remove the stigma associated with mental health versus suicide.
“It matters to me to keep her message going,” Prioleau said, “and to let people know they are not alone and they shouldn’t be ashamed of having mental health issues. It’s just heartbreaking that people suffer in the shadows and people don’t know.”
The movement has dispersed more than 3,000 T-shirts, 600 decals and 1,000 temporary tattoos within the community for free through generous donors Polk County Sheriff’s Department and Polk County Community Foundation.
Earlier this month Prioleau, on behalf of the Polk County Mental Health Board, placed 132 sunflower signs at Stearns Park in Columbus. The sunflowers represent the number of suicides committed each day in the United States, according to the 2019 statistics. There’s a large banner that reads “Always look at the brighter side of life, just like the sunflower which looks upon the sun not the dark.”
“Sunflowers always look up to the sun and sunflowers represent hope,” Prioleau said.
She also placed a banner with 132 photos, names, and dates of people lost to suicide. Each person on the banner was recommended by someone in Polk County and includes people who died due to overdoses and mental health issues. The community is welcomed to go to Stearns Park and walk amongst the sunflower signs and visit the banner of pictures.
This display will be up until October 1.
Do Not Lose Hope’s seventh annual walk in support of those struggling with mental health issues will be held at 5:30 p.m. on October 2 at Harmon Field. This is a free family event hosted by Polk County Schools Superintendent Aaron Greene and will conclude with a dove release honoring those who have lost their battle.
If you, or someone you know, is having problems and needs help, please contact someone. The Western NC Mobile Crisis line’s number is 88-573-1006.
Another resource is the National Suicide Prevention Hotline and that number is 1-800-273-8255.