In a dark world, be the light

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Not today. Just two little words, but possibly the most powerful words you can say to someone contemplating suicide. Alicia Amsler, owner of Alicia’s Salon and Day Spa in Chesterfield Meadows Shopping Center became well acquainted with depression and suicide in her personal life and at work. Her mother went into a deep depression after heart surgery that lasted for five years.

Brandi Pope models a t-shirt with the logo In the dark be the Light. The theme for the 2020 fashion show.

“It was a difficult time for our family, because we didn’t know the signs of mental illness at that time,” said Amsler. “We just wanted her to get better, but she didn’t seem to respond to anything we tried.” In the family’s search for answers, Amsler learned to recognize the symptoms that went beyond just having a bad day. Once the family got help and started treating her depression, her mother improved.

In 2012 Amsler was faced with an even darker side of depression when she lost one of her employees to suicide. A year later she lost a dear friend, also to suicide.

“It was time to do something,” Amsler said. With her business relationships in the beauty and fashion industry she called upon friends and family and founded a nonprofit suicide support group called Runway2Life.

“Our mission is to bring the beauty and fashion industry together and collaborate and discuss a subject that is often hard to talk about.”

The organization’s goal is to train a community. “We want to bring hope, awareness, encouragement and education to people to help them live the best life they can,” she said.

The program started with a weekly support group to encourage engagement and talk about anxiety. At the same time Amsler began training her employees to recognize the signs that often come out during casual conversations with clients while getting their hair styled. The trainings were so successful that she extended them to other professionals in the community.

From the very beginning, Amsler envisioned a major event to reach more people to raise awareness while fundraising for the training workshops. Runway2Life conducts a major fashion show with local models and fashion experts contributing their expertise to the event.

It was the personal approach that was making the program successful. Meetings where individuals could share their story with compassionate leadership and feel better about themselves and their situation when they left the room. But in 2020 everything changed.

“COVID has changed the way we do things, said Amsler.” Instead of being a huge fashion show with hundreds of volunteers and donors coming together, the event had to go virtual with a smaller show on the Runway2Life you tube channel and fewer donations.

However, there have been some positive developments in 2020. “We started creating online groups for people to get involved in.” Overcoming Anxiety is one online group which has over 800 members who can reach out and express themselves or send a private message to get personal help with resources.”

In 2019 before the pandemic, the organization established the theme ‘In a dark world, be the light.’ Amsler has been amazed how relevant the theme has become. “It has been perfect for 2020’s darkest times.

People need light in their darkness when they cannot see their way. To have someone listen and spread light on such a dark matter can save a life. And that is just what we have done this year.”

Amsler said Runway2Life meets people in their own darkness, listens to them and shows them some light and ways to get through the darkness. She often hears from women who are exhausted, sometimes in a toxic relationship and feel like they can’t go on. We have started small private groups of like-minded people that are going through some of the same battles. And we have people that are using their past pains to help others see victory in their darkness.

Runway2life has started a grief group for people that have lost loved ones and a young adult group that deals with anxiety and depression. With its close association to the fashion industry, they also have a group called Worthy, for models and designers that deal with body image or unworthiness. Members are uplifted and encouraged by other’s testimonials.

“We have also started a spiritual warfare group,” said Amsler. People in this group are in a really dark place tormented by visions and dreams that bring on night terrors and feelings of oppression. They live their lives often engulfed in fear. “We have a prayer and deliverance team that will listen and pray with them and show them how to fight differently and get back the joy and peace they are missing. Runway2life has many testimonials of people that have been set free of depression and oppression from this class.”

Amsler advises that if you know of someone who is feeling depressed don’t be afraid to start a conversation with that person about how they are feeling. Studies show she said that talking about the subject does not increase the possibility of someone attempting suicide. It does quite the opposite. Sometimes that is all they need, a listening ear. And if you aren’t quite sure what to say, remember these words ‘not today’. If you can convince someone not to take their life today, you may have convinced them not to take that action ever.

For more information about suicide prevention go to the Runway2Life website at: https://runway2life.com/ or contact Alicia’s Salon and Day Spa to learn more about local support groups (804) 768-0131

If you or someone you love is looking for immediate help, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

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