ANDERSON — Every night, Melissa Martin’s 5-year-old son tells her he was visited by his father.

But recently, the boy told his mother that his father appeared to him without a face. He is too young to be told that his father committed suicide in November 2016 with a gun blast that removed much of his face, she said.

“I’m just waiting for the day to tell him,” she said.

Holding two yellow carnations given to her at the event, Martin was one of hundreds of people who walked in Saturday’s fourth annual Anderson Walk Out of the Darkness to raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Many members of survivor groups arrived to tell their stories and remember their loved ones and wore specially designed T-shirts honoring specific friends and family members.

According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control CDC, National Center for Health Statistics Vital Statistics System, the number of people committing suicide has been increasing for more than a decade.

According to the Indiana State Department of Health’s Suicide in Indiana Report, published in 2017, there were 116 suicide deaths in Madison County between 2011 and 2015, the latest year for which compiled information is available. An additional 569 hospitalizations for attempted suicides were reported during roughly that same period.

Like many survivors, Martin said she had no idea her son’s father was contemplating suicide. In fact, she had spoken to him two hours earlier to set up a visitation for their son.

“He sounded normal on the phone. He told me he loved me and his son,” she said.

Jennifer Bowmer had a cousin who had taken his own life, but she never dreamed the tragedy would come even closer to home at 2 a.m. in 2012 when her niece called to say Bowmer’s brother, Rob Ross, had hanged himself.

“He was so gorgeous, and strong and a leader. I just never seen it coming,” she said.

But Ross also was an alcoholic, and that may have contributed to his decision to end it all, Bowmer said.

“There were issues, and I think he got tired of fighting those demons,” she said.

For the following two years, Bowmer said, she couldn’t talk about the tragedy.

“We try to live with the aftermath of it,” she said. “People think when they commit suicide it doesn’t affect anybody.”

The walk is part of Bowmer’s journey to healing.

“I walk because I think he thought he didn’t matter,” she said. “We don’t want anybody’s memory to die. That is the reason we walk, so our loved ones are never forgotten.”

Follow Rebecca R. Bibbs on Twitter at @RebeccaB_THB, or call 765-640-4883.

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