Out of the Darkness

words: Marla Cantrell
images:courtesy Ashley McFaul via AFSP

Ashley McFaul cherishes her life. At thirty-one years of age, she’s successful at work, has a fiancé, and will soon be the stepmother of a fourteen-year-old. Yes, Ashley cherishes her life.


Although, there have been times when she could not say that. In middle school, just making it through the day was hard. She was bullied, and she was experiencing some trouble at home. Insecurity showed up, and with it, depression, and for a time surviving was a battle.


For a while, she thought about killing herself.


Today, Ashley is eternally grateful that she worked her way through it. For her, that meant finding a new church to attend, talking to trusted friends about how she was feeling, and turning to art—something she found she loved—to pull her out of that dangerous time.


While she seemed to know intuitively what would help her, anyone who’s experiencing self-destructive thoughts should call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.TALK (8255), and seek counseling.


Ashley agrees with that advice. And she does all she can to help others who are feeling desperate. Last year, when she saw an ad for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (AFSP) “Out of the Darkness Walk” in Bentonville, she signed up immediately. Those attending raised money for the non-profit, and several experts, such as mental health care providers, showed up to share information.


The experience was so uplifting, Ashley signed on to chair a walk in Fort Smith, which will take place on October 8, beginning at 2:30 in the afternoon, at Ben Geren Park. Those wanting to participate can register at the AFSP website or at Ben Geren beginning at noon on October 8.


Ashley and two of her friends are working hard to make the event a success. The Veteran’s Administration, a representative from AFSP, and To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), which is a nonprofit that helps those struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts, will be on hand, and Ashley expects several mental health experts to commit soon.


The event is an important way to fight suicide. Last year at Bentonville’s walk, Ashley felt at home with people she’d never met before. Some had been through what she had, others had lost loved ones to suicide, and some were mental health specialists. Ashley wants everyone to know there is hope, that life is hard sometimes but always gets better. “Don’t give up,” she says, offering advice that served her well, that led her to her beautiful future.



Suicide Warning Signs

(From AFSP)

  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings


The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. Warning signs are associated with suicide but may not be what causes a suicide.


What to Do:

If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide:

  • Do not leave the person alone.
  • Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
  • Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.TALK (8255).
  • Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.



October 8, 2:30pm

(Day-of registration begins at noon.)

The AFSP “Out of the Darkness Walk”

Ben Geren Park, Fort Smith  |  afsp.com

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