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Service of Remembrance and Hope On Thursday Marks Anniversary of April 28, 2021 Tragedy

By Sherrie Norris

If you lived in the High Country on April 28, 2021, you can probably name exactly where you were when you heard about the tragic loss of five precious lives in our community, as a result of a mental health emergency.” 

Those words, spoken by local marriage and family therapist, Mary McKinney, resonate with all of us who do remember that fateful day. And it is a day that none of us will forget.

During a Service of Remembrance and Hope, scheduled for Thursday, April 27 at 12:30 p.m. at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church Solar Shelter in Boone, the lives of Michelle and George Ligon, Sergeant Chris Ward, K9 Deputy Logan Fox and Isaac Barnes will be remembered, said McKinney.

 ‘I am honored to join Rev. Kathy Beach and others in the service on Thursday to remember these five people — and to hold their loved ones and our community in love and hope.”

McKinney and Beach, along with Dr. Alysia Hoover-Thompson and Dr. Austin Combs, are among the leadership team for the Watauga Community Mental Health Project, which is hosting the memorial service. 

The organization was  formed in response to the tragic loss of those five lives in April 2021, “as a result of a mental health emergency experienced by Isaac Barnes.”  

“We hope and pray that we can continue to find better ways to work together as a community to prevent this sort of loss of life — and to improve the quality of life for individuals and families who deal with mental illness,” McKinney said. “It is important to note that people with mental illness are far more likely to be the victim of violence than to harm other people. It is important, also, to notice the power of safe and stable connections to boost our ability to prevent the loss of life — and to improve the quality of life for everyone who is impacted by mental illness. I pray that we continue to build these connections well.”

The mission of the WCMHP is quite simple, yet profound: To create connections that increase the quality of life and prevent loss of life through such avenues as raising community awareness around addictions, mental illness, and mental wellness resources and supports through frequent community engagement; shattering stigma about mental health and addictions, and promoting opportunities for conversations about mental health and ways to support our residents.

“Our hope is that all people in Watauga County have the knowledge and resources to access affordable, timely, mental health care to achieve mental wellness, and are fully included in the life of the community, ​ regardless of their level of mental wellness.”

Stable and supportive relationships are powerful factors and can make a big difference for individuals and families dealing with challenges/mental health emergencies, added McKinney. 

“I have become convinced that it is important to distinguish between a crisis and an emergency, and to build responses and resources, accordingly. WCMHC might look for opportunities to empower people to engage in that sort of connection with individuals and families who deal with mental illness.  We might look for opportunities to offer tips to recognize mental health emergencies, and when such an emergency might be approaching, as well as information for how to offer support when the need is noticed.”

To learn more about WCMHC, view the local resource guide and get answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding mental health, visit fwatauga.weebly.com

Or email ​CMHPofWatauga@gmail.com