On January 2, 2014, I was called by a fellow hiker who asked "What the hell is going on!?!?" The hiker community had been surprised by the suicide of one of our own. Then, the hiker on the phone with me received the double-whammy of having a second friend commit suicide within just a few days. About a week and a half later, a gal I had shared coffee with here in Wisconsin also committed suicide.
It seems many of us in the past year have been affected by suicide. Hearing about another recent suicide in the hiker community in the past week, I felt like I had to do... something. From my experience, suicidal thoughts CAN happen (not always) when people feel isolated and alone. When hikers come back home, they are absorbed by the rest of the non-hiking community, and it's easy to feel separated from the positive and healing experiences from the trail. Hikers really are a "band of buggered few" with memories that just can't be shared and understood by someone who hasn't backpacked. Likewise, people who survive through someone committing suicide are another group that are bonded together through unique circumstance - only this one usually isn't as bonding because we don't know where we all are.
So, let's start to regroup. Let's have a phone call where we can all get together and express a little about what the Trail meant to us, what lessons we learned, and how we may be having difficulty applying those lessons back in civilization. Let's get together to talk a little about how we feel about the friends we've lost, about the friends we've helped, about how we're afraid of losing ourselves.
Want to join the conversation? It'll be Friday, February 27 at 7 PM Central Time (8 PM Eastern, 6 PM Mountain). Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will respond with the call-in information. Check your time zone and get it in your calendar:
***Please share this with other long-distance and thru-hikers - I don't care what year they hiked, which direction they hiked, or even what Trail they hiked. They may need to feel "normal" again with others who "get it." Let's try to keep everyone on the Trail of Life! Keep Hiking!