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Oct. 17 is Culpeper Suicide Awareness Day
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Oct. 17 is Culpeper Suicide Awareness Day

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The loss is immeasurable for loved ones of those lost to suicide. The pain is hard to imagine, for those who end their own lives.

Saturday, Oct. 17 marks 11 years since Culpeper County High School graduate John Russell “Rusty” Bowers III took his own life following a long battle with depression. Time has not healed the pain for the family he left behind.

“This time of year the heartache is so much worse,” said Rusty’s mom, Brenda Bowers.

The Suicide Prevention Coalition in his name typically hosts an October fun day, walk and bowling tournament in his memory. But the pandemic cancelled the events that raise money for local programs aiding people with depression and substance use disorder as well as suicide awareness. The coalition nonetheless awarded two scholarships this year totaling $1,500.

And Mrs. Bowers was sure to see about the town passing a resolution recognizing Oct. 17, 2020 as Culpeper Suicide Awareness Day. Signed by Mayor Mike Olinger, the resolution acknowledges the 48,344 annual deaths by suicide in America, the second leading cause of death of people aged 10 to 34.

“Culpeper has lost many of its residents, both young and old, to suicide,” the resolution states mentioning Bowers, a son and brother. Since forming, the suicide prevention coalition in his name has awarded 19 scholarships to deserving students.

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The resolution calls on all the citizens of the town of Culpeper “to educate themselves on the signs of depression, raise awareness that suicide is preventable and help those who are clinically depressed to seek medication and therapy and encourage others to seek professional care to prevent suicide.”

“We mainly want to get the awareness out there to let people know that they are no alone and there is hope,” said Brenda Bowers.

She added, “The loss of your child to suicide is so devastating because you always wonder how you missed the signs. How could a mother not know how sick her son was when you loved him and he knew that there was nothing on this earth we wouldn’t have done to help him? But our son was too sick and like so many others he didn’t know how to reach out.”

The first step to preventing suicide is reaching out and telling loved ones about depression and suicidal thoughts, Bowers said.

“Our family chain is broken and our hearts will forever be broken, but we know that if we can help get the awareness out there it would make Rusty so proud to know if even just one life was saved,” she said. “People need to know it’s ok to reach out when they are suffering with depression. It’s a deadly disease.”

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, spoke at a virtual event, “Preventing Death by Suicide: A Chief-to-Chief Leadership Wellness Discussion,” hosted by the National Law Enforcement Museum. There have been an estimated 869 police officer suicides in the U.S. since 2016, according to Blue HELP. Spanberger spoke about the need to prioritize mental health resources for law enforcement.

“A failure to invest in community services like mental health and social services increasingly leaves police in the position of stepping in as crisis counselors for those on the edge—a job they did not train for,” she said. “A failure to fund these services not only means that those needing mental health services may not be able to get the help they need; it also places undue stress on our local law enforcement officers and strains the resources of our departments.”

The local, 24-hour Mental Health Crisis Line is 540/825-5656. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

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