Tammy Weppelman speaks to a crowd outside Denton County MHMR on Sunday during the organization's third annual candlelight vigil. Weppelman is the organization's Administrator of Special Projects.

Tammy Weppelman speaks to a crowd outside Denton County MHMR on Sunday during the organization's third annual candlelight vigil. Weppelman is the organization's Administrator of Special Projects.

In commemoration of those lost to suicide over the past year, Denton County MHMR held its third annual candlelight vigil Sunday evening outside the organization’s building on Scripture Street.

MHMR opened the vigil with live music before bringing speakers and opening the microphone for attendees who wished to speak about their experiences with suicide. Denton County MHMR is a local organization providing mental health and intellectual disability services to people with Medicaid and Medicare.

The organization’s Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors (LOSS) Team partners with the medical examiner’s office to provide services to families affected by suicides. Tammy Weppelman is the administrator of special projects for Denton County MHMR.

“We listen to their stories,” Weppelman said. “We provide them resources for grief support and all of that.”

Tammy Weppelman speaks to a crowd outside Denton County MHMR on Sunday during the organization's third annual candlelight vigil.

Tammy Weppelman speaks to a crowd outside Denton County MHMR on Sunday during the organization's third annual candlelight vigil.

Weppelman said the annual candlelight vigil started three years ago as an event for Mental Health Awareness Month, which occurs during the month of May. The idea blossomed out of a college project by one of the agency's employees, Nelly Dixon — a TWU student at the time — who requested to take on the project.

Dixon has been working for Denton County MHMR for three years and is currently the team leader of the organization’s Mobile Crisis Outreach Team. Her team provides services to people throughout Denton County who express suicidal or homicidal thoughts or are experiencing psychotic episodes.

Her team visits clients in hospitals, jails and at home and gauges the severity of their mental health status and uses that to identify the proper course of action to stabilize their mental health again.

Two years into Dixon's tenure at Denton County MHMR, she lost a friend to suicide and struggled with the consequences of the situation.

An attendee at Denton County MHMR's candlelight vigil on Sunday cradles an electronic candle in her hands as she listens to speakers provide their experiences with suicide.

An attendee at Denton County MHMR's candlelight vigil on Sunday cradles an electronic candle in her hands as she listens to speakers provide their experiences with suicide.

 

“I would never want to be in that situation,” Dixon said. “And then when I was put in that situation, I was completely grateful for my environment around me, who I surrounded myself with, and I was so lucky.”

“I would never want to be in that situation,” Dixon said. “And then when I was put in that situation, I was completely grateful for my environment around me, who I surrounded myself with, and I was so lucky.”

Two of the other speakers at the vigil were April and Jason Dyke, husband and wife and co-founders of the Coppell-based nonprofit Carson’s Village. They started the nonprofit after their experience losing their youngest son, 11-year-old Carson, to suicide in April 2017.

April Dyke, left, and her husband Jason, right, speak about their nonprofit, Carson's Village, at the Denton County MHMR's annual candlelight vigil.

April Dyke, left, and her husband Jason, right, speak about their nonprofit, Carson's Village, at the Denton County MHMR's annual candlelight vigil.

“We were completely blindsided,” April said. “We had not prepared where we were going to be buried, much less our own child.”

April took notes throughout her entire experience of losing her son, posting the information to Facebook. She and Jason decided to formalize their services as a nonprofit organization in June 2017. Their main mission is to provide free assistance to people throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area with the processes of losing a loved one, from a six-day plan for handling the loss to basic counseling.

“No one really needs to know about us or wants to know about us unless they’re in that situation,” she said. “So really, for us to market or do tables, people walk right by until they’re in that moment. And it’s such a crucial, time-sensitive moment, because there are so many decisions that. [For example,] for organ donation, within 24 hours you've got to be able to make those decisions.”