Secret Ink Tattoo in Claremore is hosting its annual Suicide Awareness event next week.

Monday and Tuesday, from 8 a.m. to close, owner and artist Richard Wallace will be giving out $40 suicide awareness ribbon tattoos.

In past iterations, the store had done the semicolon tattoo.

“We wanted to start with a clean slate for everybody, so what we’ve got is a sketch ribbon and we’re doing a watercolor design of purple and teal,” Wallace said. “To me the watercolor represents the tears that these victims share, fighting the demons and illnesses that they have, and the families that have to endure for the rest of their lives after it.”

The tattoo is 2 and a half by 2 inches. Each tattoo is $40 and a portion of the proceeds go to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free, confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24/7, across the U.S. through one of 150 local crisis centers. “Most of our volunteers, a good 90 percent of them, are all suicide family victims,” Wallace said. “Many of the women here have lost their children in the last year.” Wallace is no stranger to suicide. “It hit me like a brick wall when the mother of my kids … We had divorced eight years prior, but then she took her life,” Wallace said. That was two years ago. “It threw me for a loop because she was in the clinical [psychology] field.” “Even someone that’s there isn’t safe from the voices in her head,” Wallace said. “Depression strikes on a global scale and she proved that.” Wallace said that “even as a clinical psychologist, you still have to wring out the sponge. She was taking in so much grief from other people that it poured right into her

life.” “Luckily my kids were a little older when it happened,” Wallace said. “It was really hard on the youngest one. We were looking at four months from his birthday and the year of Graduation, and having to cope. The other one was already out of the house and on his own, but still … dealing with two kids and explaining why, telling them not to accept the blame for it.” “We made this an annual event in memory of their mother,” Wallace said. Wallace said the greatest benefit of this event is for people to have someone to talk to. “It lets these mothers and wives and fathers know that there are other people they can talk to,” Wallace said. “A lot of people don’t feel comfortable going and pouring out these problems to a counselor. A lot of them think they can take care of it on their own But the problem is they get sucked into the vortex and end up in the same situation as their kids or their friend was in.” Wallace said that as the friend or family member of someone who commits suicide, “you’re constantly beating yourself up, asking what did I do? That’s the million dollar question right there.” “I don’t pry, but if they feel open enough to talk with me then that’s great,” he said. Wallace said that sometimes there are teenagers who want to come in, but they aren’t old enough to get the tattoo. Whether struggling with depression themselves or having friends who committed suicide, they are too young to get a permanent reminder on their skin. For people who can’t get the tattoo and people who just don’t want it, Wallace encourages them to still come by and meet with all of the people understand and can identify with their pain. “I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re excluded,” Wallace said. “There is always someone here who is willing to sit and talk with them. Some people come in as families, with a big support system. Others, “sadly, when you have stuff like that it can tear a family apart, blaming each other. It’s not just a life that was taken, it can destroy families.” Wallace said that suicidal thoughts are also a major problem among military veterans, many of whom are close friends. “It’s a pretty personal thing for all of us here,” he said. “It’s great for all the people to come together that have a shared interest, so to speak, and talk to one another. If nothing else, you may make a friend out of it.” If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline for free 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. There are lines for people who are hard of hearing and in other languages. Additional resources can be found at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.