Son remembered in suicide prevention walk

Colby Duranleau was supposed to graduate from Wichita State next week.

He thought of joining the police force or trying law school. He was just 10 hours shy of walking across the stage when his mother, Karen Powell, received his diploma early.

 Duranleau committed suicide on February 14.

“There were many people that were just shocked,” Powell said. “They wouldn’t have imagined that anything was wrong with him, because they were the ones being cheered up by him. He made lots of people laugh,”

Powell called her son a “vibrant” person who was bright and philosophical. He was athlete who played football, lifted weights and won first place in a Kansas Strongman competition. But he had bouts of depression.

This weekend, 19 of Duranleau’s family and friends are walking together at the “Out of Darkness for Suicide Prevention” walk. They’re called Team 66 after the number on Duranleau’s high school football jersey.

 So far, they’ve raised $935, and the entire event has raised $7,245 — well over the goal of $4,000. Powell said she looks forward to visiting with Duranleau’s friends.

“It will be comforting,” Powell said. “We were so hurt and devastated by Colby’s death that we wanted to help others from having to go through the same thing.”

Since her son’s death, Powell has been in a support group for families with family members who committed suicide. For survivors left behind, it’s a traumatizing experience. Powell said she doesn’t even remember the period right after her son’s death. Being among others who have gone through similar experiences helps.

“I feel not so alone and not so unusual in the world,” she said. “I still have periods when I’m in shock and I can’t believe it … I go from shock and disbelief to anger to sadness to guilty feelings. I’m better, but I still have a wide range of emotions I go to from time to time.”

Saturday’s walk is about raising awareness as well as funds. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention lists risk factors and warning signs to help recognize potential suicides. They include insomnia, rage, hopelessness and a lack of interest. Asking the at-risk person questions, sharing concerns and going to professionals for help are all strategies for avoiding suicides.

Friends and family members may go through depression themselves after a loved one has committed suicide. The money raised from the walk also goes to training support group leaders.

“You need to take care of yourself,” Powell said. “We have to be able to look forward, move on and savor our own well-being.”

Powell said at least one person has turned away from suicide because of her son’s death.

“I can’t bring my son back, but knowing that there was someone helped helps the pain of what I’ve been going through,” Powell said.

Check-in begins at 9 a.m. and the two-mile walk starts at 11 a.m. Online registration ends Friday, but on-site registration begins at 9 a.m. at the Plaza of Heroines by Ablah Library.

The event includes a silent auction, raffle, information tables and speakers who will share their experiences with suicide. Registration is free and donations are accepted.