About 700 Kentuckians a year take their own lives.
Now, a group in western Kentucky called Infinite Hope has been formed to support those left behind.
WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller talked with two people from Henderson who lost beloved young men to suicide, as Infinite Hope prepares for a remembrance ceremony on Saturday, Sept. 25, at 6 p.m. in Central Park in Henderson
One of those taking part in the event is Frank Poole, who lived near his grandson Talon Hogan for the entire 20 years of the young man’s life. He took care of Talon and his brother when their mother was busy remodeling their church and Poole was unemployed during the Great Recession.
"I was 58. You couldn’t find a place that would take an application," said Poole. "So, they really filled my life at a time that I needed it. And I look back now those were some of the most precious times. I wish I had realized the moment even more.”
When the rest of the family moved to Indiana, Talon stayed with his grandfather to go to college, where he was in ROTC. At 20, he moved into his own apartment and worked in a big box store, planning to become a policeman when he was 21.
When Talon didn’t show up to a job interview on May 29, 2018, the family and police went searching.
Frank Poole found his grandson’s body lying by the side of a creek, with an assault rifle the young man had bought 10 days earlier.
“I remember how lonely I was standing there on the curb. I was ready to walk out in front of one of those trucks when his body bag come up out of that creek," said Poole. "I didn’t know my heart could hurt so bad and continue to beat.”
Poole continues to ask himself what he might have missed.
“I have examined every breath I have taken with him for the last three years, trying to find a clue,” said Poole.
“People who love them really try and find that, 'Why? What could I have done? How could I have changed it? If only I’d….’," said psychologist Julie Cerel, a professor at the University of Kentucky and director of its Suicide Prevention and Exposure Lab. "It goes on forever for a lot of loss survivors.”
Cerel said one factor that puts a person at risk of suicide is they feel like they belong. And there’s another red flag.
"The only really reliable risk factor we have for suicide is someone who has made a suicide attempt in the past," said Cerel.
But sadly, some people take their lives on the first attempt.
Cerel says when a person is in so much mental pain they can’t see a way out, their brain gives them wrong information, including thoughts "that they’re a burden on the people who love them and that the people who love them would be better off without them, even though that’s never, ever the case, that’s what people who are suicidal are thinking.”
Patti Hunnicutt understands that only too well. Her son Joshua was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, an illness his father also suffered with. Joshua was on medication and seeing a therapist every other week when he hung himself in his apartment. He was 27. Hunnicutt said Joshua had four children and loved being a dad, but was separated from his wife due to his struggles with the illness.
“He said, 'Mom, you know, what kind of life do I have to offer my kids?” recalled Hunnicut."Because he was concerned, you know, he had seen his dad and so he knew there would be times he would act totally differently than what he was and he was worried that he would hurt somebody, especially his kids.”
Hunnicutt lost Joshua 18 years ago and said it’s important for anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide to find emotional support.
“The pain is always going to be there. It doesn’t go away. It does get more manageable. It’s not quite as overwhelming as it was in the beginning," said Hunnicutt. "I think just having things like Infinite Hope, where you just know that there are people there that are going through the same thing, that understand your feelings, is really helpful.”
Frank Poole and Patti Hunnicutt offer and receive support by taking part in Infinite Hope. Their loved ones will among those remembered Saturday with pictures, music and a candlelight vigil at Central Park in Henderson.