Annual community walk shines light on suicide

PARKERSBURG – Veterans and their families will receive extra attention in dealing with depression and other mental health issues at Saturday’s annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk in City Park.

Scheduled to set up booths with information for veterans and their families on post-traumatic stress, depression, suicide and other issues relating to war and military service are representatives from the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, the Parkersburg VA outstation and the Army National Guard in Parkersburg.

The Department of Veterans Affairs will be bringing its mobile vet center to City Park with counseling and information to help veterans make the transition from military to civilian life.

The sixth annual community walk is designed to raise awareness about the warning signs of suicide and offer support to family, friends and loved ones who have lost someone to suicide. The event raises money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The walk will be from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at City Park. Registration is available at the walk or online at

Dr. Heather McCarter, walk coordinator, wanted to place a focus this year on offering help to veterans and their families. She said she sees veterans and their family members dealing with depression, PTSD and other mental health issues in her chiropractic practice in Parkersburg.

McCarter also has a very personal reason for being involved in the Out of the Darkness community walk.

Her sister, Jennifer McCarter Verdill of Parkersburg, died by suicide in December 2005. Verdill was 27 when she died and left behind a 2-year-old daughter, Emily.

Jennifer was a trained chef and someone who was intelligent, vibrant and had a dynamic personality, McCarter said. She was diagnosed in the sixth grade as being clinically depressed. McCarter said her sister gave no warning she intended to take her own life.

This is the fifth year McCarter has been involved in the community walk to shine a light on suicide. She has been a volunteer and walked with “Team Jenda Jeti” to raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

McCarter is being assisted by Jason Ferrebee and Donell Haynes from Westbrook in organizing the walk. She succeeded Dr. Libby Powers, who founded the local community walk and served as walk coordinator for the first five years.

“Libby did a great job. She has been an amazing guide in creating this year’s walk,” McCarter said. “I wanted to continue to bring awareness to anyone suffering from depression, mental illness or any underlying cause.”

The McCarter family has used a truthful approach in talking to Emily about her mother’s death by suicide, Heather McCarter said. Emily is now 9 years old. Jennifer McCarter Verdill passed away on Emily’s second birthday.

The family tells Emily it is not her fault or anyone else’s fault that her mother died. McCarter said she shares with Emily the wonderful qualities of her mother.

“I share the vitality of my sister,” she said.

Gary Nelson, pastor and pastoral counselor, will speak about teen depression at the Out of the Darkness community walk. He has written the book, “A Relentless Hope: Surviving The Storm of Teen Depression.”