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400-plus turn out for Lebanon suicide awareness walk

By Sarah Brown

Lebanon Local

Lebanon’s second annual Out of the Darkness walk for suicide awareness and prevention was held Sept. 28 at Ralston Park.

“It’s called ‘Out of the Darkness’ for a reason,” said Dave Butler, organizer. “It’s to get it out there.

“Let’s get it out of the darkness and bring it into the daylight, and let’s talk about it.”

From 2007 to 2017, there were 25 verified suicides within the Lebanon Police jurisdiction, and last year. With numbers like that, Lebanon ranks 3.5 times higher in suicide rates than the national average.

As a former firefighter, Butler is also aware how suicides affect first responders on the scene.

“We respond to every one of these, and we don’t want our people going to these,” he said. “You may go to one, you may go to four or five in one year’s time, and that affects you.”

Emergency personnel and military veterans rank in the top three for suicide in the nation, he noted. Firefighters and police officers take their own lives because of PTSD from everything they see on the job every day.

“We want to put a stop to that.”

The effects of suicide extend beyond one person.

“Look around,” Butler said. “Everybody here has been affected by suicide in one way or another.”

Lebanon’s walk last year drew a crowd of six teams, totaling 278 people. This year, as some 50 teams composed of 401 walkers participated.

Dave Butler leads his team, Forever 28, in memory of his son, Brandon Butler.

But Butler sees the crowd as one team. As organizer for the event, he’s adopted the motto, “One city, one team.”

Butler, whose son Brandon took his life in 2017, has opened his home as a 24-hour safe house, and  has had more than three dozen calls, texts or private messages in the past year, he said.

During one text conversation, he had to call law enforcement, who located the boy and sat with him until a friend could pick him up. That boy thanked Butler the next day.

“Out of those three dozen I’ve talked with, every one of them are still alive today,” Butler said.

He doesn’t want to see any other family have to lose a loved one and experience what he has, he said.

“That’s our driving force behind this. It’s absolutely horrible to lose a loved one to this.”

Though it’s unfortunate that it took his son’s death to get him started down this road, Butler said, he finds solace in helping others.

“I could have grieved over my son and stopped there, but that’s not in my nature.

“I decided that maybe we could do something about it. It started out with my son dying, and he’s the reason I started this journey, but it’s all these that still struggle is why I continue to do it.”