Today, despite casually researching flights out of Austin the night before to make an escape, I stood in front of the Texas State Capitol and addressed a crowd on behalf of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and delivered the following speech:
Good Morning everyone. My name is Beth Doughty, and I am the team captain of the Jay Walkers – just one of the many teams walking with you today.
Like many of you, I’m here because I lost someone. In my case, my husband Jay died by suicide at the age of 40. On that day, almost every person on my team lost someone – some lost a son, some lost a baby brother, some lost an uncle, and others a good friend. On that day, I stopped being a wife and a best friend, and I became a widow – our future plans and dreams shattered. On that day, each one of us lost pieces of ourselves. The loss was devastating. The loss was profound, and none of us will ever be the same person we were before July 9, 2016 – the day Jay died.
Immediately following his death, I not only felt isolated, I was isolated. People didn’t know what to say, so they wouldn’t say anything because of the stigma surrounding suicide. They worried that I was embarrassed or ashamed by his death. So when I went back to work, I wasn’t greeted with sympathy cards or flowers or expressions of condolence after my husband died. No one said, “I’m sorry for your loss.” Instead, several workers asked, “How was your vacation?” And I sat there gobsmacked – emotional wounds that hadn’t begun to heal widened further. And it wasn’t because the people at work who knew about his death weren’t kind or sympathetic people, they just didn’t know how to talk about suicide or mental health issues, and they certainly didn’t know how to share that information with others.
It seemed like suicide was this boogeyman, and people were afraid to speak about it except in whispers lest you invite its gaze upon you or your family.
My first support group was the people you see walking with me today (and the walkers who are walking with me across the country and across the globe). They formed a protective phalanx – closed ranks, and we gathered around each other tightly – supporting and protecting each other.
Unfortunately, our experience isn’t uncommon.
I’ve been asked to tell you all why I walk. I walk because I believe we should and can normalize this conversation. I walk because I believe strongly in AFSP’s mission. I walk because of the support of this community and I believe that through it we can heal. I walk because you’re here – whether it’s because you’ve lost someone or you’re struggling, you’re here, and I believe together WE can make a difference, and that starts by having open and honest conversations around mental health issues and suicide. It starts by changing laws so that everyone has better access to mental health care. And it starts by being seen, like we are here today, and by talking loudly about these issues so that no one feels isolated again.
We thrive as a community.
We heal as a community.
And I also walk in honor of my husband, Jay, my favorite person and my best friend, so no one ever forgets him.
Jay was so much more than one event.
Thank you.Community – Beth Doughty, Oct. 2022
A huge thanks to everyone who supported the walk again this year either by making a donation or participating in the walk (virtually or in-person).
We raised $7,747!!! (Once the auction closes, it will take us over $8,000! WOW! Great job all of y’all!!!!)
Special thanks to:
- The Parks Family
- Central Texas Archery
- Our Silent “Let’s Get Loud” Auction Donors
- Rocky Mountain Vacation Homes – April Bindock
- Dragon’s Lair
- Anna Adam
- Heather Barthelme
- Dustin Colson
- Leslie Nichols
- Dianne Sheldon
- Meghan Spear
- Enid Kowalik
- Katy Kowalik-Alcorta
- Also, extra special thanks to: John Skaarup for keeping the Silent Auction alive.
And none of this could have been accomplished without my best friend and co-captain, Anna Adam who provided support, hugs, and willingly gave up Sundays to sit for long hours out in the Texas heat. She crafted incentives, chased down tumbling tents, and ultimately helped guide this unwieldy ship to shore.
There’s still a bit more work to do. Incentives to be shipped. Bad videos to be created, but all should be coming your way soon.
Thank you all for supporting us one last time. We had a good run.
If you’d still like to give to a great cause, you have until December 2022. Just click on this link to The “Jay” Walker’s AFSP Fundraising Page.