September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
This year, an Oregon father decided to take the heartbreaking experience of losing his teenage son on the road.
Doug Peterson just finished biking from Canada to Mexico. He rode 1,800 miles for people whose lives have been touched by suicide.
In 2015, Peterson’s 17-year-old son Page took his own life.
“Somehow depression took over his life in a hurry, we think. Came home one day and he had taken his truck and pulled in our barn and kept running, and that was it,” Peterson said.
After a year of deep sadness, Peterson turned to his bike for some exercise therapy, and then set his sights on a multi-state journey.
From Washington state, through his home state of Oregon, and weeks in California, he connected with others who’ve lost loved ones.
“Everybody has a story, everybody has lost someone, knows someone directly, indirectly,” Peterson said.
A CDC study finds more than 48,000 people died by suicide in the U.S. in 2018. Researchers also say suicide has increased 35% since 1999 and is now the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
Peterson’s ride was sponsored by the California apparel company Pair of Thieves, which produced socks with the words Never Alone above the ankle and the suicide prevention hotline phone number on the toe.
“If nothing else, it's just a conversation to have, you know, what are the socks about, why are you wearing those, what’s the story with those?” said Pair of Thieves founder Alan Stuart.
Peterson wore the socks every day of his journey.
“When you’re suffering from depression, you tend to kind of suffer in silence and you don't ask, and there's a stigma and we gotta get rid of that stigma. Ask the question, are you OK? No, I'm not OK. OK, let's get you some help,” he said.
They’re words he wishes he said to his son, and now wants to tell others.
Pair of Thieves is donating $2 from every pair of socks purchased to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.