Amy Williams attempted to hold back tears as she held a tattered Batman hat close to her heart in Alexander Hall at Fort Gordon on Thursday morning.
The hat belonged to her son, Tyler, who took his life June 22.
“Every picture for the last five years have been with this hat,” Williams said. “So this is like having him with us.”
She and her husband, Randy, were invited to speak at Thursday’s Suicide Prevention presentation at Fort Gordon.
Before the presentation, Williams reflected on the loss of their 25-year-old son, who had been attending Kennesaw State University and studying social work before his death, and their effort to make others aware of the issue.
“It was his goal to help people with mental illness,” she said. “So we are kind of taking on the cause for him.”
Her husband talked about his son’s 20-year struggle.
“He was hospitalized many times and put on every medication under the sun,” he said. “We saw everything and begged for help for years.”
He advised attendees to have a discussion and provide helpful sources to those who may share thoughts of suicide. He informed them to watch their behavior and moods.
“Be vigilant and be alert,” he said.
Michael Reed, branch chief of the ASAP Prevention program at Fort Gordon, said the presentation, which falls under the Army’s substance abuse program, works as a way to get soldiers the resources that they need to deal with mental health issues.
“My hope is that they realize that this is a human issue and not just a soldier issue,” he said following the presentation.
Steven Diaz, a Marine Corps veteran who was seriously injured by an IED in 2004, was also invited to Thursday’s event to discuss his effort as founder of Hidden Wounds, a private organization providing psychological care for soldiers struggling with mental health issues.
Diaz, who suffers from PTSD, seizure disorder and traumatic brain injury, said during the year and eight months he took to heal he struggled with mental illness and was skeptical about reaching out for help.
He advised the few soldiers in attendance to take notice and extend their support.
“Once you notice that someone is suicidal you do not leave them alone, take the precaution to get out and help someone else,” Diaz said.