Mom touched by suicide makes prevention her mission

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by Joe Flanagan, 13News Now

WVEC.com

Posted on August 17, 2014 at 8:36 PM

NORFOLK -- With pies to their faces, reminiscent of a frosting-covered Mrs. Doubtfire, people gathered Sunday to support Team J-Man.Its members will take part in the Out of the Darkness Community Walk in Virginia Beach in September.

The event is sponsored by The Hampton Roads Survivors of Suicide Support Group, which helps people who have lost a loved one to suicide cope with their feelings and to heal.

The nod Sunday to the beloved Robin Williams character comes after the entertainer's apparent suicide in his home in California this month.

The loss through suicide is something Ann Leigh Bailey knows and feels.

Two months ago, her 14-year-old son, John Mercer -- the "J" in Team J-Man took his own life.

"He did so many voices, and he was so entertaining. He was just an absolute joy for us every day," said Bailey, who pledged to campaign for awareness and suicide prevention.

John Mercer, who was a freshman at Maury High School and a student at the Governor's School for the Arts was seeing a counselor, but Bailey would like to see more intervention in schools. That includes program like the 'I Need A Lighthouse' one which has been introduced to Virginia Beach City Public Schools.

"I think it cannot be ignored," Bailey explained. "There are plenty of people who are willing to step forward and help."

The event featuring the pies in the faces is the second fundraiser Bailey and her husband, Jeremy, organized.

"It's just incredible how his life was moving along, and the next minute he's gone, and you don't really know what to say," said Jeremy, who had been in John Mercer's life for 10 years.

Although the words may be hard to find at times, the Baileys know talking -- about depression and anxieties, about the need to find some form of intervention -- is crucial.

"It helped me, and it's helped everybody I've known that was not afraid to ask for help, and that's just it," Bailey told 13News Now.  "If you want somebody to hold your hand, somebody that loves you will hold your hand."

The Out of the Darkness Community Walk takes place September 6 at Mount Trashmore.

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