With being September National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a late Sherman man’s family is continuing to honor his life with a campaign of kindness.
Kimberly Cogburn said she started the Pay it Forward for Chaz campaign after her 25-year-old son, Chaz Turner, took his own life last October.
“A few days after my son passed away, I was scouring his Facebook page where he had mentioned being in a grocery store and that an elderly couple had paid for his son’s baby formula as he was checking out,” Cogburn said “So, he started encouraging people to pay it forward. I saw that and I thought that was exactly what I needed to do to honor his memory.”
Cogburn said her son never gave any indication that he was struggling and the shock of his death was something she never wanted any other family to feel. So Cogburn and her relatives set out to raise awareness of suicide and mental health issues by committing small acts of kindness.
“I’m not saying we do it all day, everyday, but we try to as often as we can,” Cogburn said. “We wear t-shirts, we have bumper stickers, wear bracelets, and we pass out cards with his picture and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number is on there, too. We’re still coping and we probably always will be, but trying to pay it forward in his name has helped tremendously.”
Turner’s mother said the campaign has been met locally with lots of gratitude, reciprocity and more than a few tears, but it has also spread in unexpected ways. She said Sherman High School’s student IDs now bear the national hotline’s number. A church in Fort Worth has donated to awareness efforts in her son’s name and a Nevada woman has pledged to paint Turner’s name and the words”suicide prevention’ on rocks that she’ll leave across the state.
“We’re not doing this alone,” Cogburn said. “I had no idea it would stretch as far and wide as it has and there have been so many people who are willing to help.”
Turner is survived by his large family, including five brothers and sisters and his three-year-old son, Mason. Cogburn said while the approaching anniversary of her son’s death will be a difficult one for the family, she hopes it will also spur the public into action.
“You could mow your neighbor’s yard, take someone a plate of food, hold the door open, help someone stuck on the side of the road, or even just smile when you’re out in public,” Cogburn said. “You never know what someone might be struggling with and how one thing could make a difference in their life — maybe even save it.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day and can be reached by calling 1-800-273-8255.
Drew Smith is a reporter for the Herald Democrat. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.