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Driving the Road to Light

By on January 1, 2020

In Loving Memory of Adam Dixon

When owner-operator Andy Dixon pulls his sharp-looking, midnight blue Volvo 18-wheeler dedicated to Landstar Inway into truck stops, other drivers notice, and conversations start.

“Recently, I was at a shipper in Memphis, and a man approached me and started talking about my truck. It starts a lot of conversations about suicide. Some people may be dealing with suicidal thoughts themselves. Others may have lost someone, and they just want to talk about it,” says Andy.

“I put, ‘It’s okay to not be okay’ across the visor. That’s what other drivers see when they walk past my parked truck. On the sides, I put, ‘Symptoms of Mental Health Concerns.’ Below that, I put the 1-800 number for the National Suicide Hotline and a link to the SaveCenla.com website.”

Loss of Their Son

Cenla is short for Central Louisiana. Andy and his wife, Angela, and their family and friends found themselves in the “not okay” camp five years ago, when their 17-year-old son, Adam, died by suicide.

The Dixons call Avoyelles Parish, located in central Louisiana, home. Avoyelles has one of the highest suicide rates per capita in the U.S., and the suicide rate across the country is also steadily increasing.

Suicide can touch anyone, anywhere, at any time and even though the Dixon family had already experienced two family suicides, involving Andy’s sister and a niece, they never dreamed suicide could come into their home and take one of their children. Andy and Angela had spoken with Adam after these other family deaths, and Adam said he couldn’t think of a reason why someone would ever do that.

But that changed on May 16, 2014. “We didn’t see it coming. It was there; the signs were there, but we just didn’t see it coming,” Andy says.

God Holds Us Close

When asked what helped him and his family through Adam’s suicide and what sustains them today, Andy credits their faith. “God holds us close. We didn’t pull apart. I know many families pull apart when they lose a loved one, particularly a young person, to suicide.”

SaveCenla was founded by Andy and Angela along with another couple, Anthony and Jackie Bordelon, who lost their son, Jerry, to suicide. Every year in mid-October, they hold a Walk into the Light event in Marksville to lift the stigma of mental illness and to help prevent suicide. But Andy isn’t working to prevent suicide only once a year. He and Angela have become LivingWorks master trainers of ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training), and Andy has been known to engage in simultaneous interventions from the road after maxing out his HOS. The LivingWorks organization has created the world’s leading suicide intervention training program. 

Helping Those in Need

After speaking with retired trucker Bruce Shell in Houston who noticed Andy’s rig, he learned about a Facebook group aimed at men networking for the greater good, and he joined. “One night,” said Andy, “shortly after stopping, I logged into that group on Facebook, and the very first post was from a man who was saying he was going to kill himself that night. So I messaged him, and he responded. I started doing an intervention and started walking him through PAL (Pathway for Assisting Life). I went back to his original post to view his profile and see if I could learn more about him. When I did that, someone else posted a comment saying he was also planning to kill himself. 

“So I messaged the second man on the side. He responded. So it was like midnight. I was doing the first intervention with the guy in Seattle, then a second intervention with a guy in Pennsylvania. I don’t remember where I was, either Texas or Oklahoma, but I was able to help both of them. For the guy in Seattle, I went back to that main group after I walked him through PAL, and we made a safe plan. I asked someone in that group to meet him. A nearby trained volunteer accompanied him to a hospital.

“The guy in Pennsylvania was a Veteran. One of the trainers who works at the VA in Pineville, Louisiana contacted the VA hospital in Pennsylvania closest to the Vet, and she arranged to have a qualified staff member waiting for him when he walked in the door.”

Although unusual to conduct two interventions simultaneously, that experience is typical of the volunteer suicide intervention network that reaches across the U.S. Andy recently heard from the Veteran. He called to thank him and said he has a home, a girlfriend and a job. He’s doing great. “I’ve been involved in quite a few interventions mostly because of this truck. It’s pretty amazing.”

Relatable to Trucking

Andy acknowledges trucking can be a very lonely profession and can make family life more difficult. “I know some truckers die by suicide, but I don’t think it receives the attention it deserves. If I went home and suicided, nobody would connect it to the trucking part of my life. It would just be a local suicide, and I happened to be a trucker. Trucking life is physically and mentally demanding, and can be very difficult for some to cope with.”

Thankfully, SaveCenla helps Andy and his cofounders help others. That’s what keeps his wheels turning. With a catch in his voice, he notes, “Angela and I believe Adam is in Heaven, and we’re okay with that. What pains us is knowing how much he suffered inside when he was afraid to tell anyone what he was thinking. That’s why many volunteers like us do what we do. We don’t want another mom and dad to go through what we’re going through. Or to have somebody out there who’s suffering in silence as Adam did.”

To learn more about LivingWorks and how you can help or be helped, visit LivingWorks.net. To learn more about Save Cenla and its mission, visit SaveCenla.com or SaveCenla on Facebook

About Warren Eulgen

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