Organizers of the Out of the Darkness mental illness and suicide prevention awareness walk, from left to right, Elisa Brosius, Frank Marrero and Gordon Doughty, photographed at Solano Community College. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Repbulic)


Suicide, mental health at the center of campus walk

By From page B10 | February 16, 2013

FAIRFIELD — Gordon Doughty, Elisa Brosius and Frank Marrero are survivors.

All three faced life-altering tragedies, but all three made it through.

For Doughty, it was walking home to find his daughter had shot and killed herself. For Brosius, it was the news that her brother hung himself from the porch. And for Marrero, it was the sound of his wife’s blood-curdling scream as she discovered her son dead on the floor.

Since the death of their loved ones, Doughty, Brosius and Marrero all had to come to grips with why they took their own life. None really found answers as to why it happened, but all three found help through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Through the foundation, the family survivors found others who could relate, people who understood their story and their pain.

To aid in research and education on suicide prevention, Solano Community College is partnering with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The college and the foundation will host the county’s first-ever “Out of the Darkness” community walk March 9 on the Fairfield college campus.

In a joint effort, the Solano County Office of Education also started a campaign at county schools to talk to students about depression and suicide.

The 5-kilometer walk will raise funds for education and research programs on suicide prevention and mental health awareness. It is also designed to start a conversation in the community about the issues.

Doughty, who is now the board chairman of the foundation’s Bay Area chapter, said that just by bringing people together the walk helps families and friends heal.

“We share stories. We’re able to connect, to help,” he said.

“The power of people coming together . . . we feel good . . . We continue to heal,” Marrero said.

Marrero lost his 19-year-old son eight years ago. His son had been using steroids. Marrero and his wife asked him to stop. But unknown to them, going off steroids made their son depressed and paranoid. They took their son to get the help he needed and thought he was on the right track.

On the day he committed suicide, Marrero remembered everything seemed normal. He and his wife went to the store as their son did homework. He had even asked them for items from the store.

Hours later, Marrero’s wife returned to find her son had shot himself with Marrero’s gun.

Marrero and his wife had so many questions about why this could happen and how they did not see it coming. Dealing with his grief was made all the more difficult when his wife died from cancer a few years later in the same month his son died.

After his wife’s death, Marrero thought there was no hope, he said. But when he made the effort to reach out for help, people responded. Marrero was able to move past his pain and continue his wife’s vision of helping prevent suicide.

That’s part of Brosius’ goal as well.

She too struggled to come to terms with losing her 18-year-old brother, a person who she always remembered as happy and outgoing.

She didn’t see the signs of depression in her brother, but since his death she has been passionate about preventing suicide. She did so inadvertently during a group therapy session. After she shared her story with the group, one of the attendees told Brosius her story dissuaded her from killing herself that night.

“That woke me up from my own depression,” Brosius said.

For Doughty and his wife, the “Out of the Darkness” walk helped them move on after losing their 18-year-old daughter.

The walk offered he and his wife much-needed support and said it also helped them understand that mental illness needed to be recognized and treated.

“We’re pretty good at dealing with diseases below the shoulder,” he said.

By moving forward through the pain the three families are able to reach out and help others.

“We always look forward,” Marrero said. “We only look back to build a strong foundation to move forward.”

Check-in time for the “Out of the Darkness” community walk is 9 a.m. March 9.

The walk and program are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. To register early and online, visit www.afsp.donordrive.com/event/scc. Online registration period ends at 3 p.m. March 8. Participants can also register at the event.

Reach Heather Ah San at 427-6977 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/HeatherMalia.

Heather Ah San

Heather Ah San

Heather Ah San covers Rio Vista, features and general news for the Daily Republic. She received her bachelors of art degree from the University of Oregon.

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