#JamesDonaldson On #MentalHealth – ‘#Suicide Is Not The Way Out, Because It Gets Better’


#Domesticviolence survivors share their stories at Marion’s Take Back the Night

Andrew Carter

People who attended the Marion edition of Take Back the Night, hosted by Marion Technical College, walk around the lake on the Marion campus following the event held Thursday, April 20, 2023. Take Back the Night is a movement and organization that traces its roots to the early 1970s when incidents of violence against women in San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles began to attract media attention.

Two Marion County #women who overcame #domesticviolence and #sexualassault to create productive and victorious lives for themselves shared their stories during the 2023 edition of Take Back the NightMarion Technical College hosted the event last Thursday.

The keynote speakers for this year’s event were MTC #student and local entrepreneur Kimberly Bryant and Marion Area Chamber of Commerce President Heidi Jones.

Bryant, who is the owner and operator of online retail shop, Kitty Kat Candles, said she is a survivor of both #domesticviolence and #sexualassault. After struggling through a difficult #childhood that included physical, emotional, and #mental #trauma, she experienced further #mentalhealth and emotional issues as a young #adult that resulted in her becoming a victim of rape and even contemplated #suicide.

While her life hasn’t been easy, Bryant said, thanks to the help of many people, she has persevered and overcome difficult circumstances. She is now on the verge of obtaining a college degree from MTC, runs her own business, is an independent person, and has established health, loving relationships with family and friends.

“I wish I could go back and tell 12-year old me, 16-year old me, or even 19-year old me that it does get better,” Bryant said. “#Suicide is not the way out, because it gets better. These #men have hurt you, but that doesn’t have to define you because it gets better and you’re going to be okay. You’re not alone. It’s possible to live through the #trauma and get out on the other side and be okay. I hope each one of you who have come out here tonight and hear those words, know that they apply to you, too. You will be okay. You have the possibility not just to survive, but to thrive.”

#James Donaldson notes:
Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.
Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.
Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.
Find out more about the work I do on my 501c3 non-profit foundation
website www.yourgiftoflife.org                            Order your copy of James Donaldson’s latest book,
From The Verge of Suicide to a Life of Purpose and Joy

Kimberly Bryant of Marion is a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault who spoke at the 2023 edition of Take Back the Night on Thursday, April 20, 2023, at Marion Technical College. She is a student at MTC and owner of Kitty Kat Candles.

Jones, the former executive director of Marion Matters and now current president of the Marion Area Chamber of Commerce, spoke about overcoming the #trauma of a lengthy abusive relationship to reach a position where she is now a respected leader in Marion County and beyond. It marked the first time she had shared her story publicly.

“I’m Heidi Jones and I’m a survivor of #domesticviolence. It took me years of therapy to utter those words,” Jones told the audience.

Jones experienced mental, emotional, and eventually physical #trauma during the course of an abusive relationship. She shared about how she tried to walk away, but was drawn back into it. She and her abuser had a #child together, which she gave up for adoption, essentially saving the girl’s life by doing so.

Jones was finally able to escape her situation and find the help she needed to heal and move forward with her life. Since breaking the bonds of #domesticviolence, she has dedicated her life to helping people through her work in the community. She has also established a healthy relationship with her daughter, whom she surrendered for adoption.

Jones encouraged those who may be experiencing an abusive situation not to try to handle it alone.

“I realize now, many years too late, that I could’ve asked for help,” she said. “I didn’t have to carry this burden alone. #Isolation is never the answer. Guilt, shame, and pride are liars. Those feelings cause our decision-making to fail. Our society is flawed. We’re judged. It is that judgment that creates feelings of guilt and shame. This might sound cliche, but kindness is always the answer.”

Marion Area Chamber of Commerce President Heidi Jones shared her story of surviving and overcoming domestic violence during Take Back the Night on Thursday, April 20, 2023, at Marion Technical College.

Jones related how she worked hard to conceal her past life experiences, but realized that wasn’t healthy or productive.

“Most people would’ve never guessed what I’ve been going through. I wore a mask. I kept it secret. I lived in fear,” she said. “Fear that if I told someone what I was going through or had been going through that I would be judged; I would be shunned. All also lies, by the way.

“I say this to say, please don’t believe the lies that society tells us. Don’t believe the lies that our pride tells us. Speak up even when you think someone won’t believe you. Abusers are great at what they do. (Her abuser) certainly had the world fooled. It’s a not discrepancy in us, no matter what we are being told.”

Jones offered the following advice for people who have friends that they believe might be in #domesticviolence situations.

“I encourage each of you to never give up on a friend who isolates. Check on them,” she said. “Be there when asked. And never make them feel guilty for canceling plans, being flaky, or some of the other things that we like to think. We never know what’s happening in their lives. Love on them when you can and support them when they are ready.”

Take Back the Night is a movement and organization that traces its roots to the early 1970s when incidents of violence against #women in San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles began to attract media attention.

According to the Take Back the Night website, one of the earliest protests was in 1972 at the University of South Florida, where #women demanded greater resources and safety measures for their protection on campus. In October 1975 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, citizens staged a march and protest following the murder of microbiologist Susan Alexander Speeth. She was walking alone one night when she was attacked and stabbed to death not far from her home.

Marion Technical College began hosting a local Take Back the Night event in 2017. Due to the #COVID-19 #pandemic, the Marion event was canceled in 2020 and 2021.

Email: ecarter@gannett.com | Twitter: @AndrewACCarter