In 2016, Gayla Kelly lost her brother, singer-songwriter Daniel Diedrich, to suicide.
“Daniel lived and breathed music,” Gayla said. “He marched to his own beat, had a heart of gold and would give the shirt off his back for someone in need. He was a much-loved son, brother, uncle and friend.”
Since his death, Gayla, the front-desk coordinator at the Ascension Via Christi Specialty Clinic, part of Ascension Kansas, has dedicated her time to educating others about suicide prevention and mental health.
“I’ve lost a number of other friends and family members to suicide, but Daniel’s death was the one that spurred me to action,” said Gayla, who joined the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (AFSP) Out of the Darkness Walk that year and now serves on the organization’s board.
This year, she’s serving as the chair of the event, which is designed to draw attention to the importance of suicide prevention and provide support to survivors of suicide loss.
She once again will be walking in Daniel’s memory. She won’t be walking alone.
Last year, more than 1,000 people whose lives have been affected by suicide came together in Wichita to support each other and raise awareness of suicide as the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. This year, the AFSP is hoping to have even more people at the Sept. 21 event, which will include food trucks and other activities leading up to a brief program at noon and the start of the 1-mile walk.
“It’s a chance for survivors of suicide loss to come together with others who know that pain,” Gayla said. “When you lose someone to suicide, you just feel so alone. I want to let others know that they are not alone and that there is help available.”
It’s also a chance to find out what resources are available to help survivors cope with their loss and for anyone who may be considering suicide to find the help they need.