Posts Categorized: mental health

Hope, A Festival of Living: A Community’s Future After a Suicide

I look for hope in the aftermath of my son’s suicide. Last year, I encountered hope playing, speaking, supporting, and praying, inside a high school gymnasium. Almost ten years after Chelsea Ryann’s death her parents, Matt and Jennifer Westwood continue to encourage their community to reach out and reach into to the lives touched by depression, through Chelsea Ryann’s Festival of Hope.

An impressive pool of volunteers, organization, and outreach opportunities greeted me as I explored the many activities offered. People, inflatables, crafts, information booths, joy, and sorrow, connected me to the community. Displayed throughout the Chelsea Ryann Festival of Hope was a God who cares, a community involved, and a family who remains faithful through the hardest of experiences.

Matt and Jennifer took the time to engage individuals and ask how each person was doing. Compassion and understanding were evident in the couple’s eyes, as they hugged me and mourned my loss as well as their own. Both parents admit we didn’t believe mental health was a problem until it became our problem.

Since Chelsea’s death, the Westwood’s immersed themselves in the world of depression and suicide, while also holding tightly to the truth of who they are in Jesus Christ. Suicide touches every age, gender, and demographic and they feel they are responsible for showing their community faith in action.

The Value of a Life

I participated in the Memory Walk held on the outdoor track where photos shared Chelsea’s story, and signs of encouragement lined the infield, “You Matter”, “Don’t Let Your Story End”. “Chelsea was a smart, witty, amazing daughter, friend, and sister. We had 16 beautiful years with Chelsea”, Jennifer stated in a recent video on their site, but they wish for more experiences with their daughter. In the ten years since her death, many of her friends have graduated from college, married and are starting their families. But Chelsea has no new memories to share.

Chelsea loved hiking at Red River Gorge and once successfully carried her injured friend down the mountain without help. She was up for a challenge and became an innovative problem solver. Matt smiled as he described her as a wiz at Trig. But, as she entered junior high, the outgoing, vibrant Chelsea they knew, was slowly crowded out by dark thoughts, self-hatred, and deteriorating mental health. The school, community, and church rallied around Chelsea to support and encourage her.  But in a moment of despair, Chelsea ended her story in 2009.

Thinking back on the day of Chelsea’s suicide, Matt said, The enemy was certainly prowling around that day. The enemy wanted people to think that it was their fault that Chelsea took her life. He looked at Jennifer, I think we both knew we are going to stand strong for these people who have now flooded our living room with tears and regret, and guilt. The Westwoods felt protective of their immediate family and the house full of friends experiencing shock. “We chose the path we did because that is what we believe”, they both stated firmly. “We realized we had to stay strong. Jesus calls us to emulate him, as much as we can”, because others were watching.

Emulating Christ in Grief

Suicide destroys many marriages but faith, family, and the adversity already experienced strengthened Matt and Jennifer’s relationship. Such commitment did not go unnoticed by the community, others asked how their marriage remained secure. “Why wouldn’t it, was Matt’s response. We need each other. The simplicity of their belief and strength of their convictions emerged from years of practicing a united front. “Never losing hope. That is what got us through. There were highs and lows, but knowing God was always going to be there for us. He’s got our back, even through the difficult times. I never gave up hope,” Jennifer stated.

The Westwood’s teach others through their talks on suicide to lean into the lives around them and ask how they are doing. Jennifer emphasized, “How are they really doing?” They take back the date of Chelsea’s death in March by preparing care baskets for neighbors and friends and visiting to encourage. “Because we have made ourselves vulnerable and open, we have a lot of people who approach us, not just for teen suicide, but for a lot of things.” A prominent man in the community who shared with them he was struggling with depression serves as a powerful illustration for going deeper with our circle of influence. Matt shared, “All these people around him knew him, but very few knew he was battling depression. Because on the outside everyone was like, I want to be that guy. But no one took the time because everyone assumed, he was okay.” The community reached into Matt and Jennifer’s lives as well. Supporting them at work with understanding, time to grieve, and a listening ear.

Jennifer marveled at the support they received and realized how many resources God blessed them with. Being surrounded by so many amazing people “helps us not to lose our hope”, She affirms.  Many of those same people who loved Chelsea then, love her now through supporting her memory at the Festival of Hope.  Chelsea’s grandparents, siblings, extended family, church and community open their hearts wide to offer hope in the midst of their own sorrow and grief alongside Matt and Jennifer.  As I completed the loop, I felt valued, my individual story nurtured and ministered to by the strangers I now call friends.

Signes around the track encourages that your life matters.

Establishing a Habit of Hope in Community

Through prayer, openness, and vulnerability, Matt and Jennifer designed Chelsea Ryann’s Festival of Hope with their community in mind. Inspired by the work of the American Foundation for the Suicide Prevention’s Community Walks, Chelsea’s family began working with their local community to support individuals and families struggling with depression. They enlisted the help of school resource officers, teachers, friends, and community professionals. Now, beginning their preparation for their 4th festival which will be held this Saturday, October 20th, they encourage us to both celebrate life and value the journey of anyone wrestling with depression. Matt and Jennifer remain steadfast and determined to continue their story to completion. It is good to know their loss is not the last chapter. Chelsea’s story is part of a bigger story. One that includes others experiencing depression embracing hope in Christ Jesus through a community’s testimony of perseverance.

Making Headlines

I proof courage before it makes headlines. Erase
errors and daily edit my existence
until acceptance. The looks, scholarships, the homecoming queen, the pageantry—You caption my life—A Success On and Off the Field.
But fear echoes
in my ears, after the bleachers stop pounding
with admiration. I don’t know who I am without the
helmet. I polished
life before my final submission. Made
sure remembrance is stamped
into who you think I am. Before
the Suicide


Allow new breath, though motherhood
aches, and mind screams in the tight squeeze
of despair. Each face, traced anew, is valued
from womb to grave. Every sorrow felt,
a precious jewel, shaped and hardened by the
pressure of both good and bad
experience in my heart. My children,
shimmer in the palm
of a God who loves.

Peace Peace: Resting in God’s Promise

” The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3 BSB).

It is now 1:51 in the morning and I have given up on sleep. So I came downstairs to meditate on scripture and pray. This as my go-to habit when I can’t sleep. The time has been sweet, refreshing my spirit, and reveals so much about myself and God.

The Lord prompted me to share with you step by step, as it is happening, what my time looks like.


  • Bible
  • Writing Utensils (Highlighter, Pen)
  • Online Commentary
  • Journal
Meditating on Scripture


  • Read through the first time without notes
  • Highlighted verses that stood out to me
  • Wrote out thoughts or questions in margins (can be done in a journal as well)
  • Looked up parts I didn’t understand
  • Looked for context words (i.e. lots of battle terms)
  • Prayed for understanding throughout, for myself, and for you
  • prayed for rest

Perfect Peace=Perfect Trust
(What I learn about God and myself in each verse)

  • God’s Character/My Character
  • Our Salvation/Strong City
  • Open Gates/Faithful
  • Keeps in Peace/Steadfast Mind
  • Rock Eternal/Trust Lord Forever
  • Humbles Prideful/The Oppressed Win
  • Upright/Smooth Path
  • His Judgment Teaches Righteousness/Student
  • Worthy of Praise/Wait, Obey, Know Him
  • Majesty/ Experience Evil Because of God’s Grace for All Mankind
  • Authority/Protected From Enemies
  • Establishes Peace/Open to His Good Things
  • Lord and Ruler/ Honor His Name No Matter Who Rules Over Me
  • Destroys Oppressor/Temporary Suffering
  • Glorified Through the Righteous/Repent and Cry Out
  • Disciplines the Wicked/I Suffer If I Do Not Do What is Right or Bring Salvation to Others


  • What does “perfect peace” mean? vs 3
  • What is the significance of a upraised hand? vs 11

Lest you be intimidated by the fact that I am looking up the Hebrew translation of the verses, realize this, I love languages. I am a word girl. We lose some depth of meaning through our English translation, so I try to look at the original. This is a desire God placed in me as an aspect of my delight in scripture. Reading the original aids in my understanding. By no means do you have to do this, and I would actually caution, anyone beginning to read scripture for the first time to keep it simple.

At the core, my basic reading pattern looks like this:

  • Read
  • Question
  • Apply

Indeed, the Hebrew revealed something I didn’t see before. “Perfect peace” could literally be translated “peace peace”. By doubling up, the writer is implying this is complete, without a shadow of a doubt peace. It doesn’t come from man building security on high. It comes from God fortifying our lives, protecting us day and night, and trusting him to do what is right for us.

God has been chiseling away at the hard places in me where I lean on my own understanding and don’t trust him (i.e. my daughter’s health) and revealing over and over his trustworthiness.

Going back to my list again, what developed as I read is the following:

  • Read–God’s actions my response (looked for in each verse)
  • Question– What is the significance of God’s hand being raised? (I figure a kingly gesture of judgment, like a gavel)
  • Apply–God is trustworthy in my family’s health. Run to him for healing and direction. He will not let me down. Rest in his faithfulness.

Blessing and and peace peace dear brothers and sisters.


Taken for granted, the straight A’s

Riddled with stress. Popularity

Ostracized by the lack of interest. Neither in nor out. Depression always

Underestimated by the well meaning church choir. “Isn’t he such a nice

Boy?” they sang. “Doesn’t he show such

Leadership potential?” Until you teetered on the

Edge of the unknown and revealed your spirit was already


Look around you, is someone struggling in secret? Notice the needs of others and be a light for someone battling despair.

The Feet of Good News

“And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:15)


Dear Page Turner,

My feet have good news. Faithfully, not perfectly, I have tried to grieve with hope and walk in obedience to God’s direction. After four years of grieving with hope, I am almost done with my second book, a devotional to help anyone who has just experienced a loss to suicide. 

I have also joined The Dented Fender writing team, and am developing my speaking chops so that I can share hope more effectively. I want to be fully equipped, not lacking anything. God’s love is shining into the darkness of despair, and I love getting to be a part. So many amazing things are happening, way beyond what I thought myself capable of, but with God nothing is impossible.

Four and 1/2 years ago it was painful to turn 1 page on Jonathan’s death. I have now turned over the 2007 pages. Each page has been important, even the ones I could barely turn. My initial hope, that others would be encouraged to choose life is coming to fruition. I refuse to bow to the spirit of despair. Each page, some intensely painful, have produced new joys, new discoveries, and encouragement. I look forward to sharing with you what God is accomplishing, even when we don’t understand the fullness of his purpose.

As the work on my second book is nearing the finish line you inspire me to finish strong. Writing this book has made me look back over all that God has accomplished in four years of Turning the Page on Suicide,  I am so thankful. 

I learn from each of you. Thank you for wrestling with despair and not letting the darkness have the final say! Thank you for choosing writing as your outlet to share hope. Thank you for encouraging others with poetry, stories, photography and scripture. Thank you for commenting and blessing one another with courage for each individual journey.


The mental health community is made up of spectacular and uniquely gifted individuals. Don’t ever underestimate the value of your words, your courage to breathe life into others, in spite of your own physical and emotional pain. If you are just getting started on turning your page on suicide, may 1 page become 2 until you look back and find a lifetime of spreading the good news, death does not have the final say. Life is worth living.








Karisa Moore

Poetry Collection: Broken Butterflies


Navigating Despair

Stars lit my darkening soul.

A map of promise affixed over a sea of doubt.

God’s steady compass, commissioned above the rotating

gravity of churning experience.

Captaining my broken ship to the dock of possibility.

Morning will dawn and

I will spy the security of land.

Spark of Hope in Crisis

Spark of Hope in Crisis

A spark of hope in crisis starts with a willingness to engage others. That is how my testimony of my grieving with hope started in 2014. I didn’t one of his friends going through life not knowing that they were loved, seen, and valued by me. It was all I had to offer them, but that is powerful, and enough.


For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:12-13

Turning My Page

A chance encounter with Ginny Shepherd sparked hope in me. This petite dynamic woman has been a part of the fight against despair for a long time. The opportunity to interview her was a delight. May she inspire you to not feel helpless on either side of a crisis. We aid others in crisis through our sharing what gives us hope, as well as find the courage to press forward in our own journey through community.

Good-Bye was an opportunity to offer hope, for Ginny Shepherd, a five-year veteran of the crisis hotline in her region.

She has a long history of standing in the gap for those in crisis. Both her own family and anyone who crosses her path. Becoming a volunteer for a crisis-hotline and later a director of training, was a natural progression in her pattern of helping others.

Ginny and her siblings wrestled with many physical and emotional challenges after losing their father at an early age. This experience and its aftermath introduced her to both good and bad ways of handling trauma and depression. She was acutely aware of what worked in mental health care and what was utterly useless in helping those on the edge of suicide.

As an adult, working for many years in the education world, Ginny observed young men and women with various levels of complicated problems. She took the opportunity to listen, encourage, and find great resources of hope for her students. She often referred students to counseling, and or campus chaplains. A friendship developed with the on-campus chaplains and his wife, who were involved with the local crisis hotline.

When thinking about becoming a crisis hotline volunteer, Ginny says, “I resisted at first because I didn’t see that I had any kind of qualifications.”

Drawing on her own experience with tragedy, and help she offered her students, she thought the crisis training was at least worth exploring. “Serving as a crisis intervention worker is a great opportunity to learn about one’s ego. We become more aware of the voices inherited from our parents, family, ministers, and teachers that may not be the most helpful in being a pathway for a person in crisis to walk on. You want to serve as a bridge and conduit.  Help the caller in crisis hear what they are saying and know they are being listened to. They are seen as a valuable person.”

Working a crisis hotline is not for everyone. Becoming aware of strengths and weaknesses is essential. “We learned the difference between empathy,” what we strive to practice, “and sympathy, defined as a negative emotion for a crisis worker. With empathy, one is, shoulder to shoulder with the caller, sort of at their side. With sympathy the tendency is sort of looking down on the caller. Training gave volunteers the opportunity to work out the bugs in their vocabulary.

We were not supposed to use the pronoun “you”, but it was easy to slip into giving the caller a to-do list.

 For the fixer, it takes reprogramming responses to someone in crisis. 

“Boy, we had excellent training,” Ginny declared. Professional psychologist, hospital workers, police and men, and women working the crisis phones for many years, equipped the trainees with confidence to stand in the gap for those in crisis. Much of the training involved role-playing. The trainer would take on the role of a caller, and the volunteer would respond. “We were taught to respect the place the caller is in. “And for heaven’s sakes, no judgments, and no guilt, no coercive language, no manipulation language, just trying to help the caller clarify in his or her mind what was going on. Clear away the static. When you are in a crisis, your blood pressure goes up, and your head feels like it’s pounding. It’s hard to think. 

So much of the beginning of a crisis call is calming a person down by reassuring and listening.

Anyone in crisis, particularly the young, have so many thoughts and feelings jumbling around in their mind. They are not used to someone listening to them.” Once she began answering the crisis lines, regular in-service training increased her understanding of clients. The collaboration refreshed Ginny in the everchanging nature of the calls received.

Callers were not always someone you would sit across from and enjoy a coffee chat, Ginny explained. Learning to treat all callers as valuable took a lot of training. The crisis organization brought in a local director of a battered women’s shelter to help the volunteers understand and address the unique dynamics of domestic violence calls. Ginny learned that in domestic violence situations often the batterers are in as much internal pain as they inflict on their spouse. “That was a revelation to me.” She went on to say, one of the miracles of life is that God does love all, and that capacity of of offering the spark of hope in crisis is very difficult to achieve.

To spark life in desperate situations takes practice, accountability, and flexibility.

Ginny feels she received all of these gifts through the speakers and experts in the field.

Traumatic calls ranging from suicide threats, domestic violence to pedophiles and everything in-between are bound to take a toll on the strongest of volunteers, but Ginny credits her five-years service to the training received. The initial training always emphasized, you’re not here to tell people what to do, you are not here to solve their problem, you’re here to listen and to hold up that person so he or she can believe that they have the chance to solve their problem. Effectively, Ginny’s job was to give control over their problems, back to the caller. We practiced active listening. Reflecting to the caller what we hear them saying.

And if you get it wrong?

“Don’t worry they’ll tell you.”

The goal was to help the caller to experience that moment of thinking, maybe I could or maybe I can.  As she helped the caller see they could work through their trauma, she says, “and then you cautiously lead them into a referral.

Connect them with the experts, the best possible resources.

Ginny adds, “There was always a professional on call, that if we got into a really difficult phone conversation, we could explain to the caller. I have another phone here to call someone to help me. Or, you could call someone after the phone call for help.”

She found herself in such a situation after a three-hour suicide call. “A tightrope-walking situation,” she says. The call started with just wanting someone to tell good-bye to but ended with a “well maybe I don’t need to say good-bye.” But Ginny still felt unsure, questioning if she had done all she could. She contacted the expert on-call, and he went through the call, reflecting her responses, and reassured Ginny she had done all she could to respect and offer hope to the caller.

Her recommendations to those who want to offer the spark of hope in crisis to others:

“We may fear that we don’t have the right words, but we can communicate to the person in crisis, contemplating suicide, that we see you, you are present in my life, and I care about your life.

I think all people crave to be understood and a common cry from a person is you don’t understand me. My best estimate of what to do is to say, Help me know you, help me to understand. That puts the power back into the hands of he or her who feels they have no power. Helps them to reach out on their behalf,” Ginny says.

Often call in because they feel no one in their sphere of influence understood. “You don’t know if a family member has just trodden into quicksand.” Our response should be, “Give me a chance, I’ll try.” In a call, there is always that moment where there is a spark of insight. There’s that first glimmer from them of ‘oh maybe.’ There’s a little spark of hope, and it is a very tender and tenuous moment. You wait to hear that in their voice and then tread very lightly. Ginny spent years listening for that spark, and you and I can hone the same skills.

Turning Your Page: Developing the Spark of Hope In Crisis

You may feel ill equipped to offer the spark of hope to those in crisis around you. But as Ginny shares, it does take training and practice to develop a consistent method of intervention, but there are lots of opportunities for training. Start where you are. The bottom line is that you have experiences and things in life that have torn you down and built you up. What are those, how did others help or hinder you? Utilze where you are and step into the lives of others. Sometimes the gift of your presence are all that is needed.

  • Write down the names of people in your life that have encouraged you and offered hope. Send them a note of encouragement or thanks.
  • Read 1 Corinthians 13 which is a guide for speaking life into others. What are some of the ways we can do harm to others? How can you show faith, hope, and love?
  • Write down a three minute and five minute testimony sharing what you have learned or are currently learning about hope

Lord, I need your spark of hope in my crisis. Use others to speak life when I am overwhelmed. Equip me to offer hope when I cannot see your faithfulness, promises fulfilled, or unconditional love. Amen

Turning the Page on Suicide: In the Beginning of Grief

Originally posted November 8th, 2014

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort” ( 2 Corinthians 1: 3-7 NIV).

What an amazing passage! We do not suffer alone. What an precious gift your friendship is to my family and I. Learning to comfort in our affliction means that we look beyond our circumstances to God’s purpose in our sufferings. I share in Christ’s sufferings, but I also share in his comfort. As an added bonus I get to share that comfort with you.

When the seizures started yesterday morning I begged God to take them away. I thought that they had stopped completely several years ago and their return was more then I could bear. “Even in this, I have a purpose.” Was God’s answer to me. I have to decide if I trust him with that purpose. Do we look at our weaknesses as afflictions or as God’s opportunity to work in and through us?

One of my favorite women Joni Eareckson Tada, lives out God’s purpose through many hardships. At the age of 17 she broke her neck in a diving accident and became a quadriplegic. She has experienced cancer and difficulty in her marriage. Does she suffer? Definitely! But oh what she is allowing God to do with that suffering. Painting with her teeth, ensuring that others get the wheelchairs they need, speaking, singing, writing, and serving God in whatever way he calls her to.

So God has a purpose in my seizures! May Jesus comfort you in my affliction that you may not grow weary in your own sufferings. Hugs and encouragement to all of you. I love you dearly!

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Suicide & Prevention Hotline

National Suicide Hotline

If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call the National Suicide Lifeline at 988 or go to the website at