Fritz Caraher didn’t know what to say when his friend’s son died of suicide last May.
Words failed him.
So instead of words, Caraher and other friends decided to take action. The result: A suicide-awareness concert Sunday featuring both national and local musical acts.
“It really started with I didn’t have any words,” says Caraher, a Fort Myers chef, musician and occasional concert promoter. “What do you say to a good friend who just lost their child?
“And having done fundraisers in the past, I didn’t know what to say but I did know what I could do. And that’s to try to help other families and people.”
15 bands will perform at the Path For Hope concert at Fort Myers’ Pickle-N-Pub
Fifteen bands will perform at the Path For Hope concert at Fort Myers’ Pickle-N-Pub, including headliners Rob Snyder (a Nashville songwriter and a longtime friend of Caraher’s) and Dave Hause (a Philadelphia singer-songwriter who Caraher calls “a punk rock legend").
A portion of the concert's proceeds will go to Valerie's House, a Fort Myers nonprofit that provides free counseling and other services for children grieving the death of a loved one. The children's bereavement center started a separate group last year to help families left behind after suicide.
Suicide rates have increased by 35 percent since 1999, according to the CDC and the National Institute on Mental Health. So it’s important to talk about it, says Angela Melvin, CEO and founder of Valerie’s House.
“Suicide is all around us,” Melvin says. “It happens much more often than people realize.
“I think that anytime you can say the word ‘suicide,’ it’s important. It’s the truth. It’s what happens. We need to talk about it, and it needs to be brought up.”
That’s exactly what will happen during the Path for Hope concert. People will talk about suicide prevention onstage, including Melvin and emcee Caraher. Plus there will be tents where people can find information on warning signs, where to get help and more.
Then, of course, there's the music. The lineup includes:
Rob Snyder, a Nashville songwriter whose country songs include Luke Combs’ “She Got The Best Of Me” and “Six Feet Apart."
Dave Hause, a Philadelphia-based folk/rock singer-songwriter who performs both solo and with his band The Mermaid. He's played in many Philadelphia punk and hardcore bands, including The Loved Ones and The Falcon.
Lower Case Blues, a popular Delaware blues band.
Ocean Roads, a Fort Myers band whose original lineup is reuniting for the show. It's the first time they’ve played in about a decade.
Last Man Standing, a local rock band that's also reuniting for the show.
Robby Hutto & The Absent Minded, an acoustic-rock band from Alabama.
Students from Fort Myers’ School of Rock.
And The Camaros, a rock trio from Iona.
Connecticut resident Jimmy Lariviere will be onstage, too, reuniting with Last Man Standing and Ocean Roads — two bands he hasn’t performed with since leaving Southwest Florida about a decade ago. He’s looking forward to that reunion, he says, but admits it’ll be a bittersweet moment.
It was the death of Lariviere’s 27-year-old son, Chance, that inspired Caraher to start the concert in the first place. And the pain is still fresh, Lariviere admits.
He hopes the concert can help spare other people that pain. If the show and the information it's spreading can save one life, he says, he’ll consider it a success.
Maybe someone in the audience will recognize the warning signs in someone they love, for example. Or they'll end up seeking counseling services, themselves.
“There are signs,” Lariviere says. “There are things that they can look for. They should take things seriously. They should address things that are said.”
About 45,980 people died of suicide in 2020, according to the CDC. That’s almost 50,000 people in one year, Lariviere says.
He finds that number staggering.
“It’s 130 people a day," he says. "That’s a city of 50,000 people in a year. Imagine going to a city with 50,000 people, and you go back the next year and it’s empty.”
For warning signs and tips on how to help someone thinking about suicide, see below.
If you or someone you know is in a crisis, call the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). Or call 911 immediately.
Connect with this reporter: Charles Runnells is an arts and entertainment reporter for The News-Press and the Naples Daily News. Email him at email@example.com or connect on Facebook (facebook.com/charles.runnells.7), Twitter (@charlesrunnells) and Instagram (@crunnells1).
If you go
What: Path For Hope concert
When: Noon to 10 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 20
Where: Pickle-N-Pub, 15455 Old McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers
Admission: Free with a $20 suggested donation
To donate: bit.ly/3oDB3wk
Suicide warning signs:
Talking about wanting to die or kill themselves
Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
Talking about being a burden to others
Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
Sleeping too little or too much
Withdrawing or isolating themselves
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
Extreme mood swings
SOURCE: Suicide Prevention Lifeline (suicidepreventionlifeline.org)
What you can do to prevent suicide
Here are some things you can do if you're concerned about a friend or loved one:
Ask if they're thinking about suicide. While people may be hesitant to ask, research shows this is helpful.
Keep them safe. Reduce access to lethal means for those at risk.
Be there with them. Listen to what they need.
Help them connect with ongoing support.
Stay connected. Follow up to see how they’re doing
If you need help for yourself or someone else, contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline call 1-800-273-8255 or chat online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
SOURCE: CDC and American Psychiatric Association
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Fort Myers suicide-awareness concert raising money for Valerie's House