On June 3, 2015, J.R. Hunter, beloved son, grandson, brother and friend, took his life. He was 36. He suffered from depression. Shortly thereafter, his family began to host grassroots support group meetings that continue today. They have also embraced the national semicolon tattoo movement, as well as rubber bracelets, which they purchase 4,000 at a time and distribute worldwide for free, and a Facebook page with more than 15,000 members.
Jersey Mike’s hosts a fundraiser for the family effort from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday, with a portion of sales from that time going to “J.R.’s Hunt; for life.” Here, Jenny chats about the family effort.
Can you tell us your story? When this happened, we were obviously at a loss and it demolished our lives. Our daughter, my husband and I, we knew that we needed help but we did not know how to find it or where to find it. We needed to be around people who were like minded, people that got it. We started this support group. We intended for it to just go through the holidays. We didn’t know how we were going to live through the holidays. We realized that we had to be around these people to begin to heal, and the people who came, they found out they needed to be around all of us also. And now, two years later, we have the same people, new people, people come and go. It’s a very confidential setting, they are safe, they say what they need to say. That group meets the second and fourth Wednesday of the month, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., at the 12/24 Club, 500 S. Wolcott. Anyone who is grieving a suicide or death or considering suicide is encouraged to attend.
And then a second group was formed? Then we wanted to start pursuing prevention, how to offer that, so it’s a peer-to-peer depression support group that meets right after the survivors group at 6:45 p.m., on the second and fourth Wednesday, same day, same place. The survivors group is people who are grieving the loss of their loved one. The depression group is a prevention group, people who have suicidal ideation and have these thoughts. Talk saves lives. It’s a great way to talk it out and get the thoughts out and be safe for a little while longer. They come to the group because they haven’t found that understanding from a counselor and they don’t want to be in front of a counselor and feel like they are being analyzed, so they come to peer to peer and everybody understands.
And now there is a Facebook page? About a year and a half ago, I started our Facebook page, which is about prevention and support for losses. We have almost 15,000 people on that page to date. Many of them wouldn’t leave their house to come to group and speak out what they need to speak out, and thousands of people support them on this page.
Do you worry that you don’t have the professional training to deal with some of them? We have done intervention. We find out where they’re from, where they live, we have a way to message them or their friends will message us, so we can help everybody. We have called authorities for welfare checks, we have called family members and have them do the contacting, we’ll do whatever we have to do. Yes, we do save lives. We have many, many testimonies.
Does the good you do outweigh the feeling you’re not doing enough? It’s a little bit of both of that. It’s like they are my family. I do worry that I’m not doing enough. They support me too. They will tell me that good things are happening, and that we need to keep this up. We’re all survivors helping each other survive.
And you have bracelets? We started making bracelets about a year or so ago. We give 4,000 a month away free, by request. It’s global. It costs around $600 a month to order them, then we pay for the shipping. You can’t put a price on a life. In Casper, the bracelets are free at Goodwill, Rescued Treasures, Salvation Army, Bradley’s and Peaches.
What’s with the semicolon? It was started by Amy Bluel in 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin, after her father took his life. In literature, a semicolon means there’s more to that sentence, a period means that the sentence has ended. A semicolon means there’s more to your story. After J.R.’s funeral, we had gotten some memorials, so the Inkspot charged $25 for a semicolon tattoo and we paid for them. It was supposed to be just one Saturday, and it was so popular it went Saturday and Sunday for four weeks. And at the Inkspot, it was like a giant support group, people would come in and cry and tell their stories. It was absolutely amazing and very healing for those people. I got my semicolon on the palm of my hand, so when I’m missing him, I close my hand and I can hug him.
J.R. was certified in CPR and he’s credited with saving lives. He was very verbal about his struggles. He doesn’t have to be here to be helping people, he is still helping thousands of people.