Local family sheds light on suicide prevention

Published 1:55 pm Monday, October 8, 2012

Nicholsons to participate in Out of Darkness Community Walk

By KATIE MCDOWELL/Lifestyles Editor

In 2010, 676 people committed suicide in Alabama.

Shelby County resident Brad Nicholson was one of those people.

Nicholson, 18, was on a senior trip to Florida with his Briarwood Christian School classmates when he killed himself. Brad’s mother, Cindy Nicholson, said the family, including her husband and their oldest son, Mark, was shocked. She thought people at risk of suicide cried often and gave away their belongings.

“It doesn’t have to be like that,” she said.

She said Brad had always been “so happy” and had recently taken an interest in rock climbing and playing the mandolin.

“We just had not been exposed to suicide at all,” she said.

On Nov. 4, the Nicholsons will join hundreds of people for Birmingham’s seventh annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk, which benefits the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Last year, approximately 1,300 walkers participated in the Birmingham walk, which raised $130,000. More than 250 Out of Darkness Community Walks will be held throughout the United States this year.

The funds are used to help the Alabama chapter of AFSP provide education and training about suicide and depression to high school and college students, school personnel and health care professionals, as well as the Survivor Outreach Program.

In the two years since her son’s death, Cindy Nicholson has begun to speak out about depression and suicide, including in a speech to her son’s former school. She urges students to seek help if they are feeling depressed. She also encourages them to get physicals for underlying medical conditions and to look out for one another.

Cindy said she considers speaking out about suicide and depression as a way to honor her son and “glorify God.”

“God has opened many doors of communication with others of all ages, and he has allowed us to see the positive results where these hurting people have found help and hope,” she said.

The walk will be held Nov. 4 at Heardmont Park, 5452 Cahaba Valley Road, North Shelby. Registration begins at 1 p.m. and the walk begins at 2:30 p.m. For more information, visit Afsp.org/Alabama or email Lisa Dunn at Ldunn@afsp.org.