By Jericka Duncan
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – At first glance, it’s just a mural full of people holding on to a quilt.
But these people, of all races and ages, are holding on to memories. The faces on the quilt are of loved ones who’ve taken their own lives.
“The moment of crisis is apparent in the center with the person in the boat,” said mural designer James Burns. “The immediate life ring being thrown to that person and the external life ring is the community of individuals who surround that moment of crisis.”
Burns is with the Mural Arts Program. He was the lead artist for the mural called Finding the Light Within. It’s located near 31st and Chestnut.
The painting is supposed to help start a conversation about suicide and suicide prevention.
On the mural is a link to a website where you can share your personal story.
Pastor Thomas sadly has one of his own.
“The stone has both his football numbers on it,” said Thomas who lost his son two years ago.
His son, Owen Thomas, was 21-years-old when he hanged himself in a University of Pennsylvania dorm room in 2010.
“It seems like yesterday because the pain is still so fresh,” said Thomas.
His son wasn’t featured on the mural but Thomas says he is a big proponent of talking about an issue that affects so many people.
“80 percent of Americans have been touched by suicide,” said Dr. Jonathan Singer. “Either they know somebody, they have been suicidal, or they’ve helped somebody that has been suicidal,” says Dr. Jonathan of Temple University. He is a social worker who studies suicide prevention and helped with he mural.
He says the number of injury-related deaths by suicide is on the rise.
According to Dr. Singer suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for people 15-24 in the United States. It’s the 2nd leading cause of death for those 25-34.
The mural won’t stop the act of suicide entirely, but artist James Burns says he hopes this painting will get people to think about how they can extend help to someone in need.
For more information on suicide prevention and what you need to know go to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.