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Hundreds of shoes displayed at state Capitol to represent West Virginians lost by suicide

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than 350 pairs of shoes filled the front steps of the state Capitol on Thursday as part of a display for May being Mental Health Awareness Month.

According to Prevent Suicide West Virginia’s most recent data available, 354 West Virginians committed suicide in 2020 — the most recent data available. The 354 pairs of shoes were in remembrance of those citizens.

“We thought a victim impact display would be good for this month. It puts it into perspective when you look at these shoes and realize there should be 354 people standing there,” Michelle Toman, the Founder of Brother Up and Co-Founder of You Matter, I Matter said.

Michelle Toman

“We all wear shoes. You can just look at them and almost see the people that wore them.”

Toman and Barri Faucett, the Director of Prevent Suicide West Virginia spoke to MetroNews about the display. Toman said some shoes on the steps are from those perished individuals including Toman’s friend’s son who died in January.

Toman’s younger brother was lost to suicide a few years ago, which is her driving force behind leading these mental health organizations.

According to Prevent Suicide West Virginia, 3,445 West Virginians committed suicide between 2010 and 2019.

Also on display Thursday at the state Capitol were 20 pairs of military boots to represent the 20 military and veteran lives lost daily to suicide nationwide. The display occurred while hundreds of motorcyclists with the Run for the Wall run for honoring veterans rolled into Charleston.

Toman said officials with mental health organizations there were able to have a conversation with the bikers. She added anytime they can have a conversation is worth it and a starting point for prevention.

“We don’t want to continue to lose people to the death that can be preventable, when we do what is right in regards of education, intervening and being the help they need when they are in stress and despair,” Toman said.

For more information about Prevent Suicide West Virginia, click HERE.

If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).

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