Men cycle U.S. to promote suicide awareness

John Jaques/Pueblo Chieftain

Zachary Chipps, left, and Thomas Brown are on a 7,179-mile cross-country bicycle ride to increase suicide awareness. Both men, from the Phoenix area, lost a brother to suicide.

The Pueblo Chieftain

PUEBLO (AP) – Arizona cycling enthusiasts Zachary Chipps and Thomas Brown know well the pain and isolation that comes when a loved one commits suicide.

“After my brother committed suicide, I was one who didn't want to talk about it,” Chipps said. “It took me six years, but once I did finally start talking about it, I realized how beneficial it was and to understand that I wasn't the only one going through this.”

Chipps, 31, later learned his co-worker, Brown, 34, also had a brother who committed suicide.

The Phoenix-area residents said they often talked to each other about their feelings as survivors and discovered the benefits of that interaction.

“It's hard to talk about it, but it's necessary,” said Chipps. “We found out that we understood each other because we've been through it.”

Now, the pair are sharing their experiences and bringing more awareness of resources available to survivors and those contemplating suicide by riding their bikes across the country to promote suicide awareness.

“We want to do as much as we can to eliminate the taboo and stigma of suicide,” said Thomas. “This is something that people shouldn't be ashamed of, something that people need to talk about.”

Chipps and Brown quit their jobs with Phoenix parks and recreation and left San Francisco on March 1 from the Golden Gate Bridge, which Thomas said is the most common location in the country where suicides occur.

During their seven-month journey, Chipps and Thomas will ride more than 7,000 miles through 21 states with the goal of ending in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., on Sept. 30.

Along the way, the cyclists plan to make periodic stops, as they did last week in Pueblo, to talk about their experiences with other survivors and to promote suicide-prevention services and resources.

Eleanor Hamm, executive director of the Pueblo Suicide Prevention Center, said when she heard the cyclists would be coming through the city, she invited them to stop and talk.

“We are very much in support of what these two young men are out there doing – talking about their experiences with suicide,” said Hamm.

“A lot of times men, especially young men, tend to stuff their feelings inside and never talk about something like this,” she said. “By them coming out and talking about it, somewhere along the line, they are going to prevent a suicide. You never know who's going to be listening or watching them.”

In addition to bringing more awareness of suicide prevention and resources, Thomas said the cyclists are filming their trek with the hope of one day making a documentary about the experience.

“We'd like for the documentary to be something that we could share and serve as a tool to unify the community as survivors,” Chipps said.

Anyone wanting to donate to the cyclists efforts or to follow their journey can do so on their website.

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