Mental health activist walks 27 miles to prevent suicide deaths
Fonda Bryant almost died 27 years ago. On Saturday, she will cover 27 miles and invites you to join her.
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Suicide is the leading cause of death in the United States with nearly 46,000 people dying by suicide in 2020, according to statistics from the Center for Disease Control. There were about 1.20 million suicide attempts that same year, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).
Fonda Bryant is a Charlotte-area mental health advocate and uses her story and struggles with depression to save lives.
“I was struggling really badly. Depression had set in. And I had a plan. I was going to kill myself,” Bryant said. “And the thing is, we don’t want to die. We just want that pain to go away then.”
On Valentine’s Day, 27 years ago, Bryant nearly died by suicide.
“I was battling clinical depression and didn’t even know I had depression because culture plays into mental health, especially in black culture,” she said. “It’s ‘pray about it. Don’t claim it. Give it to God.'”
On average, 130 people commit suicide every day, according to AFSP.
“Suicide is not a personal character flaw,” Bryant explained. “It’s a global health crisis and people need to know that.”
Bryant credits his aunt, who took action and had him hospitalized, for saving his life.
She calls 1995 the year of her rebirth. She has now dedicated her life to eradicating the stigma associated with depression.
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“I realized the stigma is very thick when it comes to mental health,” she said. “I also realized that I had nothing to be ashamed of. I was battling a mental health issue.”
Bryant finds an outlet by working out, helping others and focusing on his loved ones, especially his son. She says self-care and keeping her needs first are also important ways to control her mental health.
On Saturday morning, Bryant walks 27 miles to celebrate his life.
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“I walk from city to city. From Charlotte to my hometown to Gastonia,” Bryant said.
She also walks in honor of those who struggle with mental illness and those who have lost their lives by suicide. She has shirts personalized with the names of several people who died by suicide, including former Miss USA and Charlotte attorney Cheslie Kryst, who are remembered at a vigil on Thursday.
Bryant admits she’s not off the hook. She hopes her walks, public service announcements and billboards will prevent at least one person from taking their own life.
“If I take charge of my mental health and work every day and go to my mental health toolbox and get the tools I need, I can survive,” he said. she declared.
Bryant invites others to walk with her on Saturday. The walk begins Saturday at 8 a.m. outside the Fitness Connection, located at 8709 JW Clay Blvd in Charlotte.