SEARCY — Alana Pinchback of Searcy was laughing and enjoying shopping in Branson, Mo., last week, but she was not always so carefree.
“I had battled depression pretty severely when I was a teenager,” she said.
Pinchback, 46, is executive director of the Dr. Robert E. Elliott Foundation, which educates people about depression and suicide.
The foundation’s biggest fundraiser is Stride to Prevent
Suicide, which will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday in Spring Park in Searcy. The event includes a 5K race, 1-Mile Fun Run, activities, music by the Searcy band Diamond Back, a memorial butterfly release and lunch for participants. Trophies will be given to overall winners and in team categories.
Despite the event’s serious subject, “we try to make it upbeat,” Pinchback said.
The cost of the race is $30, and participants can register online at www.elliottfoundation.com or at 6:45 a.m. Saturday at the event.
The butterfly release was held for the first time three years ago, Pinchback said, to honor those who died from suicide.
“We really want it to be a day of education and encouragement and hope for people who have lost someone,” Pinchback said.
Mental-health providers will be on hand, she said, to offer educational material and free depression screenings.
The foundation was started by Marilyn Elliott and some of her friends as a way to honor Elliott’s husband, who was beloved in the community. He suffered from depression and committed suicide in 2001, Pinchback said.
“He was a radiologist in Searcy and a community leader and real involved in … getting legislation passed to get mammograms for ladies who might not have access. He was really loved by the community,” Pinchback said.
Pinchback said Elliott battled depression for 1 1/2 years and was incapacitated by it.
“He got to where he couldn’t leave the house; he got to where he couldn’t work anymore,” she said.
“His wife and a group of friends started getting together on a monthly basis to see what they could do to get through the grief,” Pinchback said. “They decided the best way to honor his memory was to start the foundation and educate people about depression and suicide.”
The first Stride to Prevent Suicide was held in 2002, she said.
Pinchback, who grew up in Forrest City, said her parents did all they could to help her.
“Resources were limited,” she said. “I did some talk therapy and some medication. I knew what [the] stigma was like.”
Pinchback said she still takes medication to treat her depression.
Eliminating the stigma of depression is one of the foundation’s goals, she said.
The proceeds from the run provide funds to facilitate all sorts of programs, Pinchback said.
“The rest of the year we’re in the schools doing anti-bullying programs, educating about cutting and burning” and other topics, she said.
The foundation awards educational scholarships for people going into the mental health field, Pinchback said. It also participates in A Day of Caring at Harding University, where staff members conduct depression screenings.
A support group for survivors of suicide is held the first Tuesday of every month on the south campus of White County Medical Center, she said.
She said the foundation mails, free of charge, materials about depression to anyone who requests them.
Pinchback said one of the main points she wants people to know is that depression can be treated.
“I never thought I’d have this life,” she said. Pinchback and her husband, Keith, have an 18-year-old daughter.
“Things are great now,” she said. “The main thing that we constantly try to tell people is to keep hope and don’t give up. It does get better.”
For more information, go to the website or call (501) 278-4357.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.