SARALAND, Ala. (WKRG) — September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Saraland resident Venus Ann Richardson lost her stepfather, Nathan Rodgers to suicide back in 2017.

When she found out, she was completely devastated. The family still doesn’t know the reason why Rodgers took his own life.

“There was no suicide note,” said Richardson. “He was very depressed. [He] would work from sunup to sundown. He was from that era that you farmed the land, you did what you were supposed to do.”

Richardson and her stepfather had a strong bond. Richardson called him her “bonus dad.” After she found out the news, it was extremely difficult for her to break the news to her mother.

“Now, the look on my mother’s face, I’ll never forget,” said Richardson. “But the words I couldn’t repeat to you today of what I said. But it was one of the most gut-wrenching heart ripping conversations I’ve ever had to have.”

Just a few months after her stepfather’s death, Richardson lost her mother to chronic lung disease. Two years after losing her mother, Richardson was diagnosed with ALS otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which attacks the nervous system causing loss of muscle control. Her muscles have weakened causing her to get around by wheelchair.

Completing the simplest day-to-day tasks is very exhausting for her, and she requires assistance.

“Sweeping and mopping became more difficult because of muscle weakness,” said Richardson. “Even carrying a purse, because of the muscle weakness, it started on my left side, my purse would fall off my shoulder because it started drooping in the muscles started giving out.”

Richardson said that no one else in her family has been diagnosed with ALS, so she never thought it would come to her and affect her day-to-day life. After losing her stepfather, she is determined to keep spreading awareness about ALS and suicide prevention.

What continues to motivate her is her relationship with God and her family. She said that no one else will love your family like you love your family. She will continue to spread her message for both causes, and she has one analogy too that keeps her motivated.

“Be a sunflower. Be a sunflower because they always stand tall and proud,” said Richardson. “And when the skies are gray, they turn to each other. And they’re each other’s sunshine. So if you can’t be anything, be a sunflower be a light for others be a light for yourself. And don’t ever give up.”

For those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has changed their number to make it easier for those who need help. You can pick up your phone and dial 988. Also, you can visit the Suicide Prevention Resource Center at www.sprc.org.

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