Clarion County Coalition for Suicide Prevention Holds 9th Annual Walk
(Pictured above: Clarion Singers, led by Clarion High School Choir Teacher Sarah Matson, performed two songs on Thursday evening at Veterans Memorial Park. Photos by Adrian Weber.)
Around 300 people gathered in the park on Thursday evening to congregate, provide support to those affected by suicide, and browse the various displays of local non-profits and organizations in conjunction with mental health services.
Members of Clarion Singers, a choir group made up of Clarion High School vocalists, opened the ceremony with “Give Us Hope” by Jim Papoulis.
Then, the speaker for the event, Marta Barger, of Chicora, gave a powerful testimony of her son, Tyler Barger, who tragically took his own life on March 25, 2018. Barger shared her memory of him and how she and her family have faced such a tragic loss.
The following are excerpts from her speech:
“I hope by sharing Tyler’s story we can help at least one family from suffering the devastating loss and help those having suicidal feelings realize that they are loved, they are valued, and they do have a purpose. You are not alone.”
Barger explained that Tyler seemed to have a perfect life.
“Tyler had never been diagnosed with any type mental illness. He excelled in school and graduated from Slippery Rock with a degree in IT. He had a good job at PPG and lived with several friends in Pittsburgh. Tyler loved to read and had hundreds of books from all genres. He liked listening to music, following Pittsburgh sports teams, and traveling.
“To all of us that loved Tyler, it seemed like he had the perfect life–a job he loved, a loving and supportive family, and an amazing group of friends. He was always smiling and seemed to just be enjoying life.”
Barger shared how the tragedy impacted her and her family.
“Losing a loved one by suicide is even more devastating because there are so many questions and not enough answers. Until you go through a similar circumstance I don’t think anyone could truly understand.
“The first year was a complete blur, and I don’t remember much or how we were able to navigate with any type of normalcy. Our lives are forever changed and will never be the same. We grieve for the person we are missing and the future they are missing also.”
She spoke about the “firsts” and the “lasts” that the family faced after Tyler’s death.
“There have been so many firsts since Tyler left. Birthdays, holidays, Christmases. Before you know it, there are no more firsts left.
“The lasts have all been exhausted, too. The last time we talked to you, the last book or movie recommendation, and the last hug.
“It is the NOW we have going forward.”
From her experience, Barger shared with the crowd perspective on mental well-being and how it can impact one’s way of thinking.
“His death came as a complete shock. As with most suicides, the victim does not want to be a burden to anyone and feels that everyone would be better off without them. Victims of suicide have plans for tomorrow, next week, and even next year. They don’t want to die, but don’t know how to live with the pain.
“Suicide is a manifestation of illness. People don’t take their lives, their illness does.”
Barger ended her powerful speech with encouragement and a sense of resolve.
“You are going to keep waking up. When you do get out of bed, do something your loved one didn’t get to do. Somedays you won’t want to, but while you’re here you have to make the choice to live.
“The pain in your story has a purpose. One day it will help someone else survive. I hope by sharing Tyler’s story, we will give hope to others.”
Tears and applause engulfed Veterans Memorial Park as Barger (pictured below on the left) passed the microphone to her niece and event organizer–Lexis Twentier.
“Seeing that connection and reaction with the audience is sad for obvious reasons, but also a big reason as to why we hold this walk,” Twentier said.
Twentier then invited Clarion Singers to make their way to the front and perform their second song “You Will Be Found” from the musical film Dear Evan Hansen, then the crowd proceeded down Main Street.
The walk began at Veterans Memorial Park, traveled down Main Street to 8th Avenue, back up Main Street, and then returned to the park.
Twentier told exploreClarion.com that the planning committee, a group of seven, makes it easy to plan the walk each year.
“Planning and holding the walk each year is easy when you have a committee as good as ours! I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Twentier pointed out that many PennWest Clarion University students were in attendance.
“The cross country and track & field team had a great showing. Having people that age show up for a suicide awareness event is huge,” she said.
“This walk wouldn’t have been possible without our wonderful and generous sponsors and the walk committee. They keep us going year after year.”
(Pictured below: Scenes from Veterans Park.)
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