'It makes me appreciate life more': Aiken mother and daughter share suicide experiences

Nov. 5—Nancy Boatwright and Juliana Taylor have experienced a lot in their lives.

Losing those close to them by suicide, the mother and daughter have had personal losses.

They having matching semicolon tattoos, which represent suicide awareness. For Boatwright, the tattoo helps her see the reason why she chose life.

Boatwtight had a suicide attempt 40 years ago.

"It makes me appreciate life more just looking at it, and it is really cute," Boatwright said.

They are not the only ones who have experienced suicide.

Suicide is not only an issue that a certain person faces, but it can also have an impact on families and those involved.

As of September, Aiken County has had 25 suicides, and the deaths have been caused by fire arm, poisoning, drownings, hangings and overdoes, according to Aiken County Coroner Darryl Ables, who keeps statistical numbers on the suicides in Aiken County.

"Suicide is one of the hardest cases to investigate because there is a (question of) why would they do this," Ables said.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Aiken County had 30 suicides in 2019 and 35 in 2020. Aiken County ranks second in South Carolina with the most suicides, according to 2020 data released from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).

Aiken-Barnwell mental health executive director Bonnie Fulghum said suicide has been increasing in the area since the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I don't cut my phone off because people need someone on the other end for someone to talk to," she said.

Fulghum said some signs of suicide include withdrawal, talks about death or ending their life and letting family members know that they are dying soon. Fulghum said a suicide not only affects the person doing the suicide, but it affects loved ones.

Personal losses

Taylor said suicide has been a common issue in her family. She has lost her dad and her brother to suicide.

Taylor said her father shot himself, but died at the hospital after he was taken off life support. Her brother died from his substance abuse addiction.

Taylor said she remembers in college how her father told her he wanted to die and how she tried to save him by offering ways to help by encouraging him to go to counseling.

"He wanted to die, and (would say) 'I just want you to be prepared because I may want to take my life,'" she said. "That is a devastating thing for your parent to say."

"Losing someone to suicide is more of an instant death than most," Taylor added. "It is a death that sticks with you."

"I think I felt a little bit numb," Boatwright said. "If someone would have told me that your husband has died, that wouldn't have surprised because he was drinking so heavily, but I was surprised he attempted to take his own life."

Boatwright said her husband was pretty much brain dead when he arrived at the hospital. Though he was still breathing, she said there was nothing the hospital could do, so he was taken off of life-support.

"It was sort of numbing and it's something that you are never prepared for," Boatwright said.

Sharing her story

Last year during an Out of the Darkness Walk, was the first time the 86-year old Boatwright shared her suicide attempt story.

"I didn't feel inclined to share it with many people," she said.

But Taylor said when she learned about her mother's suicide attempt, she felt it was powerful because she never knew.

Boatwright said she was in her 40's, depressed and living with an alcoholic husband. Due to his addiction she could see him as much, which led to first and only suicide attempt.

Having a bottle of pills near her nightstand, she had plans to take all of the pills and end her life right there. Depressed, she had desired to leave this world.

She said fortunately she was too drunk from the night before and fell asleep.

"When I woke up, that was the one time that I was glad I got drunk," she said. "I realized that I hadn't done this, and I was wondering what this will do to the kids."

In a letter she shared in 2021, she said after the deaths of her husband and son, she has learned to love life again.

"I don't know exactly what happens after death, but I am not scared of it anymore," she said.

Moving on

As a way to cope and bring awareness, Taylor got involved with the Out of the Darkness Walk. She said the walk helps her to raise awareness about the event and bring those with a common similarity together.

"It's an issue that I am really passionate about because I have experienced so much loss from it," she said.

Beyond her work with the race, Taylor said her job as high school teacher allows her to work with teens who have suicidal thoughts or have questions about suicide. Taylor, who sees her experience through the eyes of a survivor, can help her students who are struggling as well.

"It has been really helpful in how to talk to them and how to help them," she said.

"I wish he would have been able to fight his demons," she said.

Taylor said the issue with suicide will never get better unless more people are able to talk about or share their stories.

"It has to be something we acknowledge and have to be comfortable in talking about it," Taylor said.

Looking at the semicolon tattoo on her left wrist, Boatwright that she shares with Taylor, she said it is a reminder of how far she has come from that night over 40 years ago. Taylor said to her mom is the happiest 86 year she has ever met.

Boatwright said the semicolon tattoo on her left wrist is a reminder of how far she has come from that night over 40 years ago.

"It is a very hopeful symbol," Boatwright said.

Out of Darkness will have a suicide walk on Nov. 13 at H. Odell Weeks Activities Center Park. The event will begin at 2 p.m., and registration starts at 1 p.m.