Anya Tikka | Democrat
From left, Dylan Puckett, mom and “Out of the Darkness” Walk organizer Patty Sweet and Steve Dolci, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) organizer from Poughkeepsie.
Lighting the Darkness
Story by Anya Tikka
KAUNEONGA LAKE September 3, 2013 Due to the devastating experience of losing her son to suicide, and her subsequent desire to help others, Mongaup Valley’s Patty Sweet organized the first “Out of the Darkness Walk” in Kauneonga Lake in 2011.
The third annual Walk, a fundraiser for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), took place on August 25.
The sunny Sunday morning brought a good turnout of people who all wanted to support the foundation’s help, research, education and prevention program.
Sweet, who also runs a support group for parents at a church in Kauneonga Lake, commented, “We’re going to walk with our heads held high. We’re going to stop this happening to others. Thank you all.”
Sweet recounted later, “I wanted to support other parents who have lost children to suicide.”
As she related, her son Richie Puckett Jr. “was acting a little crazy,” according to the phone call Patty received from his girlfriend telling her to come to see him. She was on her way from her Mongaup Valley home to her son’s in Ferndale when she got a call from Richie telling her he was all right. By the time she got to his residence, he was already gone.
“He was 26, and there was no suicide note, there was no indication. He wasn’t depressed or anything,” Patty said, tearfully holding up a photo of her son after the three-mile walk around the lake.
Her other son, Dylan Puckett, also walked with his mom, agreeing with her there had been no warning signs.
Patty praised Dylan and her husband, George Sweet, for their support.
AFSP representative Steve Dolci, who’s in charge of the Hudson region, came from Poughkeepsie to address people before the walk.
“Has anyone here noticed drug or alcohol abuse by a loved one? Have you noticed recent impulsive or reckless behavior by a loved one? Has someone given away their prized possessions? These are all invitations from someone asking for your help. Please, have that 15 minute uncomfortable conversation, ask the tough questions about thoughts of suicide; you might just save a life and a lifetime of heartache. If anyone here is struggling, if anyone needs to talk, I’m going to be here all day. Get some help. Help is available.”
Dolci continued talking about the regrets he has over what happened to a friend whom he lost to suicide, and the thoughts that haunt him about what he could have done.
“More of our soldiers have died of suicide than from combat duty,” he pointed out. “Depression is treatable. Ninety percent of these deaths are directly attributable to it. My friend Tony died three years ago. I didn’t see the signs. In retrospect, if I had had the knowledge I have now, it would have been different.”
He also said help is available, and urged anyone who’s in need of help to contact AFSP. Referring to the fact suicide is rarely talked about, although the statistics of how often it happens are grim, he continued, “We’re going to bring this topic out, take the stigma out of it.”
The walk was led by section leaders who carried a banner saying “Out of the Darkness” Community Walks and the AFSP logo; each leader was holding a banner for someone they’d lost. Among the walkers were Bethel Supervisor Dan Sturm and Councilmember Bernie Cohen.
Mariana Braddock, 16, came from Liberty with her brother Preston, 15 and friend John Killian, 16.
“I came because of my aunt, who committed suicide some time ago,” she recounted, adding sadly, “My parents were talking to her, and then suddenly, she was gone.”
She said she wanted to support the cause.
In United States, someone dies by suicide every 14 minutes. There were over 38,000 deaths from suicide in 2010, the year latest figures are available.
Anyone in a crisis can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), Suicide Prevention Lifeline or go to www.afsp.org or email email@example.com.
Helpful info is also available on the website for anyone who wants to start a conversation with someone who they suspect may be suicidal.
Patty Sweet runs a local support group. Contact her at 665-7232.