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FarmHer: Breaking the Silence

When suicide struck this Maryland family, they decided to speak out.

On a recent visit to Robin Hill Farm and Vineyards in southern Maryland, I met FarmHers Susan Watson White and Shelby Watson-Hampton. The women make up the second and third generations on their family farm, and both say the farm plays an important role in keeping their family together. They are working not only to keep the business going, but also to make it thrive.

Despite their strong ties, the family has experienced sorrow, losing Susan’s nephew and Shelby’s older brother, Russ, to suicide many years ago.

“I finally felt compelled to start talking about suicide prevention when our small town experienced two more suicides. One of the mothers immediately began raising awareness. She became a strident voice in addressing the issue of rural mental health, suicide awareness, and prevention,” Shelby says.

“She inspired me to join her in helping to break the silence. There is so much shame, stigma, and pain associated with losing loved ones to suicide, that people weren’t talking about how to stop it or address those ‘survived’ by it,” Shelby says. “It was considered more polite to push the feelings down, ignore them, and try to move on rather than risk discussing a difficult topic or bringing up the painful feelings. Obviously, that wasn’t working.”

The women joined the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (afsp.org) and formed a local chapter and walk team. Hundreds of people have joined their mission to reach out to those who are suffering and their families, raising more than $100,000 for suicide awareness and prevention programs.

This family and community aren’t the only ones I’ve met dealing with this issue, and, unfortunately, they won’t be the last. However, there is hope. You can make a difference by creating awareness in your community, and maybe for those who are struggling, the sun will get sunnier and the days less hard.  

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