Love for Thad 5K Walk/Run raised nearly $28,000 in 2018

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FARMINGTON — It has been a goal for Amber Hale to ensure that San Juan County residents who lose a loved one to suicide have the same access to crisis counseling she received after her teenage son died from suicide.

Hale's efforts to raise funds during the annual Love for Thad 5K Walk/Run help provide funding for therapists at Desert View Family Counseling to host sessions for patients seeking crisis counseling, according to CEO Rick Quevedo.

The annual event held at Berg Park in Farmington is named after 13-year-old Thaddeus Hale, a C.V. Koogler Middle School student who died by suicide on Nov. 10, 2014.

The amount raised during the 2018 event on June 2 in Berg Park was estimated at between $27,000 and $28,000, an increase from the $10,000 generated during the first event in 2016.

"It was very powerful to see the impact made," Hale said. "My son's memory is kept alive and honoring him with that."

The New Mexico Department of Health has released new data from 2017 showing the number of people who died from suicide statewide rose from 469 deaths in 2016 to 498 deaths in 2017.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists New Mexico as the state with the fourth-highest suicide rate from 2014 to 2016.

At Desert View, there are about one to two slots set aside daily for patients seeking crisis counseling. Quevedo said the patients seeking crisis counseling typically get appointments within 24 hours.

Sometimes, the patients are referred from the San Juan Regional Medical Center emergency room or local school districts, Quevedo said.

The funding provided by the Love for Thad 5K Walk/Run is essential to providing the crisis counseling services as the agency has faced difficulty getting funds from grants in the past.

"When we started this Love for Thad thing, we didn't know how big it was going to get," Quevedo said.

Hale and Quevedo believe the annual event has helped create a dialogue in San Juan County regarding suicide awareness and prevention.

Organizers of the 5K walk/run added a candlelight vigil the night before the event in 2017 for residents whose lives has been impacted by suicide.

McKenzie Dunlap, a therapist at Cottonwood Clinical Services, said the awareness generated by the Love for Thad event has helped reach young people in the area.

"I think it's great. It's really, really needed, especially with youth specifically," Dunlap said. "They tend to isolate when under stress. I think making it a dialogue is huge for them."

Hale is developing a nonprofit organization she hopes will be established early next year that will focus on such areas as providing suicide prevention services for San Juan County.

She hopes to make the 2019 Love for Thad 5K Walk/Run event on June 29 a memorable one, as she plans to host a graduation ceremony for her son following the run.

She said Thad would be in his senior year of high school this school year, and she wants the annual event to continue generating awareness about suicide.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

More: Suicide prevention: Self-care tips, true stories on how survivors cope

If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide:

• Do not leave the person alone.

• Remove any weapons or items that could be used in a suicide attempt.

• Call the New Mexico Crisis and Access Line at 1-855-NMCRISIS (662-7474) or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (273-8255).

• Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.

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