GONZALES, LA (WAFB) - Allen Randall, known as Bubba to his friends, has two relatively new tattoos on the inside of his forearm. The first is a purple and teal awareness ribbon with the date April 7, 2015. That was the day his 24-year-old son, Jessie, took his own life.
"Last thing we did, which was nothing out of the ordinary, like we always did, he hugged me and said, 'I love you pops.' I said, 'I love you too son,' and he got in his car and drove away. That was the last time I saw him," said Randall.
Randall says his family had no idea Jessie was struggling, something all too common among families who have lost someone to suicide.
In the aftermath of his shock and grief, Randall found a new mission, which is captured in his second tattoo. It's phrase above his wrist that reads, "For you I will." It's a copy of a tattoo Jessie had on his leg. Randall explains that for anyone struggling, he will do whatever it takes to help.
"I didn't want another parent to have to suffer through what I suffered through and I didn't want another child to lose their life because of something they didn't know how to deal with or get the help the needed," said Randall.
Randall joined the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention a few months after Jessie's death. It's a national group that provides resources for anyone who needs help, whether that's someone struggling with suicidal thoughts or a family dealing with the loss of a loved one. Most importantly, Randall says their goal is to get people to open up about their struggle and remove the stigma surrounding suicide and mental illness.
"Let's talk about it. It's OK to talk about it. It doesn't mean that you have a problem that can't be fixed," said Randall. "It doesn't mean you're crazy. It doesn't mean anything like that."
Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in Louisiana, and it's the second leading cause of death among kids 10 to 14-years-old, according to AFSP data.
An opportunity to get involved will happen October 21 at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center. On that day the Gonzales chapter of AFSP will hold its annual Out of Darkness walk, starting a 9 a.m. The walk is a chance to learn more about local resources and to connect with others. Randall says the walk carries one very important message for everyone.
"You are not alone. We have all been there," said Randall.
For more information on the walk and AFSP, click here.