On August 6th of 2019, Michael Mullen, a recent graduate of Jefferson-Morgan High School, took his own life. Michael lettered in football and band during his time in high school. He had a loving family and had many friends in school. The community was heart broken and shocked to hear about the loss of Michael. Michael’s younger brother, Patrick Mullen said, “It’s hard living without a brother. Someone older who can teach you stuff and be there for you.”
His mother, Anita Mullen, also took the death of her eldest son very hard. Her whole world had fallen apart. She did not know what to do, but she did know that she needed to do something.
Suicide is not an easy subject to talk about, certainly if you have ever experienced losing someone to it. Anita wishes to share mental health awareness in the community.
“We need to be supportive of each other,” Anita said. “There needs to be understanding, and there needs to be no stigma. We need to be able to talk about it.”
She expressed how she was afraid to ask Michael if he was contemplating suicide. Now, she knows that if she were to have asked him that, it would not have been his deciding factor.
“You would not be the one putting that idea in their mind,” Anita said. “You would be helping them.”
In honor of Michael, the Mullen family has started an event called, “A Walk for Mullen.” They have hopes of raising Suicide Awareness in Jefferson Township, as well as all of Greene County. The event had been in planning not long after Michael’s death, but needed to be pushed back as a result of COVID-19.
Through the event, the family raised money for serenity gardens to put in at Jefferson-Morgan High school and elementary school. It will be an area that gives messages of hope, peace, kindness and belonging. They sold custom made T-shirts, concessions and had a basket raffle. The event raised $2,700 for the serenity gardens.
The event was held on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. Anita was amazed with the turn out of the event. So many people came to support the family and honor the life of Michael.
The family was not able to put on the event by themselves though. Michael’s third grade teacher and neighbor, Heather Wise, was a huge help in the organization of the walk. Heather remembers how Michael was such a good friend to her son and daughter and expressed how much she wanted to help and support the Mullen family through such a difficult time.
With Wise’s connections at the school, she was able to give a new perspective of how the community came together. In particular, the high school principal and athletic director made an extreme effort to reach out to the members of the football team and all of his friends to inform them of Michael’s death on the day that he passed.
Heather told us, “[The principals] drive around to the kids’ houses to let them know that they are there for them, even now.”
Patrick Mullen stated, “All these kids and teachers have been supportive. There is a lot of people that have said, ‘Hey, if you need any help, you can always talk.’”
The community love and support has been overwhelming. The family wishes everyone who struggles with mental health to know, “You are not alone. There is always someone. If nothing else, call the suicide hotline,” Wise said, “It is not the end of the world… We can fix absolutely anything. Suicide is not the answer.”