Afterglow music festival shines light on suicide awareness

Published: Sep. 23, 2023 at 10:28 PM EDT
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ST. ALBANS, Vt. (WCAX) - September is suicide prevention month. And with the CDC reporting that suicide deaths are increasing each year, people are doing what they can to educate others about mental health.

Whether it’s a simple conversation or hosting a big event with thousands of people, some Vermonters say they want to talk about it.

“Well because I think it saves lives,” said Swanton resident Lori Bannister.

She says she lost her sister due to suicide 15 years ago.

“It was such a devastating time, and I didn’t know what to do,” said Bannister.

And while healing from the loss, she decided to do some research and learned about the Afterglow Music Festival.

“This event is extremely important to me, and it’s been something that I have been involved with since 2008,” said Bannister.

The Afterglow Foundation was founded five years ago by John Holzscheiter and Andrea Wells when they lost their 18-year-old son to suicide.

“We knew we needed to do something special,” said Afterglow President and Co-Founder John Holzscheiter.

And that is why they say their Fourth Annual Afterglow Music Festival is so important because it shines a light on the issue.

‘In his memory and to honor him and to hopefully prevent other parents from having to go through what we’ve experienced,” said Holzscheiter.

Organizers say Afterglow brings awareness to mental health and suicide prevention. They hope this event can help those that are struggling.

“It enables them to be able to share their stories with us so it’s helping bring it out into the light,” said Afterglow board member Geri Bearrows.

Holzscheiter says it feels good when people come to him and say to keep doing what he’s doing.

“My favorite part I think is when I look up at the hill and I see all the people that have come and they’re enjoying the music and they’re enjoying the food and they’re just having a good time,” said Holzscheiter.

Afterglow volunteer Daniel McCoy has been volunteering since the very beginning. He says the event means a lot to him as he has also dealt with the loss of a loved one to suicide.

“It’s something that’s very near and dear to me, and I think it’s something that we need to talk about more,” said McCoy.

And while it is a tough topic, he says he loves to see the way his community comes together.

The crowd, how it’s such a big family affair. I love seeing all of the children running and screaming around,” said McCoy.

Organizers say they hope to continue to spread the word about suicide prevention and mental health.

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