About the beginning of 2017, Cindy Snead Blount began experiencing extreme anxiety.
Her father had been in and out of assisted living, and her father-in-law was diagnosed with terminal cancer. As the full-time elementary school teacher dealt with those challenges, her anxiety descended into depression.
It was a struggle the 57-year-old lost to suicide about eight months later.
Her daughter, Madison Blount, says people have described suicide as like a feeling of being in a burning building.
“You’re either going to burn alive or you’re going to jump,” Madison said.
Sometimes people feel like taking their life is the only way to remove that pain.
When Justin Barfield, a family friend who lost his wife Blayne to suicide on March 12, 2015, approached Madison about being part of a foundation he was starting to help people going through similar struggles, she leapt at the opportunity.
Madison wants people to know that if they’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, they’re not alone. The foundation she helped organize is holding a fundraiser this Saturday in downtown Dothan to raise awareness for suicide prevention and to help people learn more about mental health disorders, emotional distress, and other contributors.
The goal and mission of the Blayne Hardy Barfield Foundation is to aid in the reduction and prevention of suicide while promoting mental health awareness. A big part of that is removing the stigma often associated with mental illness.
The changes Cindy went through in early 2017 indicated she had an anxiety disorder – a medical condition as real as diabetes or heart disease.
Depression is a condition in which a person feels sad, hopeless, unmotivated, or discouraged. It often causes a lack of interest in activities he or she used to look forward to.
Madison said her mother possessed a bubbly personality with a loving and caring disposition. She was a member of First Baptist Church where she was active in the choir, children’s ministry, and Barbara Cook’s Sunday School Class.
“My mom was a very energetic person,” Madison said. “She had a very loud laugh.”
She taught in the Dothan city school system for 34 years and was passionate about her job and about making sure that those children had a chance to learn.
Madison said Cindy felt like “God put her on this earth to help those children.”
When her father-in-law died in March 2017, Cindy began to notice changes in herself. Madison said Cindy was 18 when her mother died from cancer, and watching someone else she loved die from cancer likely rekindled those memories.
Cindy’s mood changes were noticeable and drastic.
“She was open about it,” Madison said. “She didn’t really understand why, but she knew that she didn’t feel like herself.”
Cindy sought treatment, but finding the right doctor and medication for an anxiety disorder can take time.
“She kept having to get it changed because nothing seemed to be working,” Madison said.
Madison said Cindy was at school one day when the principal called her husband to come and get her.
“She (Cindy) just kind of had had enough,” Madison said. “I think she was so overwhelmed with how she was feeling. She couldn’t give 110 percent at work, like she always does.”
She didn’t go back to work after that.
“I think that feeling of not being able to give it all she had, I think that really hurt her,” Madison said. “It really put her into a major depression.”
Cindy no longer found enjoyment in things she loved to do, like going to the beach. When she went one time and ended up coming right back home, “that’s when we kind of knew,” Madison said.
“She became kind of a different person, and that’s just part of what depression can do to you,” Madison said. “She became so ashamed of how she felt. When she admitted that she was having thoughts of suicide, we were shocked. I knew she was feeling down and I knew she was not herself and I knew there was severe anxiety. It was not just in her head, it was physical. You could see her just anxious, not be able to calm down.”
Cindy’s family tried to help. “We were all with her through all of this,” Madison said.
But it wasn’t enough.
“Suicide is part of my mom’s story, but it doesn’t define her life,” Madison said.
The three guiding principles of the foundation are “Breaking Silence. Healing Pain. Building Hope.” For Madison, being a part of the foundation has been a blessing. It’s part of her grief journey.
Grief is a process, Madison said, and being on the foundation’s board “helps me to feel like I’m doing something that’s making a difference.”