Stephenville woman hopes talking about her sister’s suicide helps others

Published on September 12, 2017

Darlene Felix holds a candle at the vigil held after the World Suicide Prevention Day walk in Corner Brook on Tuesday night. Hanging from her hoodie is a picture of her sister, Michelle Philpott, who died on May 23.

©Diane Crocker/The Western Star

As a crowd of people stood around Remembrance Square in Corner Brook on Tuesday night, something stood out among them.

A small picture sealed in a plastic baggie to protect it from the light rainfall with white and green pipe cleaners attached to it in the shape of a ribbon could be seen hanging from the coats of many in the crowd of more than 60.

Darlene Felix was one of the people proudly carrying the picture close to her heart. The beautiful woman with a big smile on her face in the picture is her sister Michelle Philpott.

The former Corner Brook woman took her own life in Alberta on May 23.

Felix drove from Stephenville to be in the city on Tuesday night to attend the Walk for World Suicide Prevention Day (observed on Sept. 10) hosted by the Community Mental Health Initiative and its Suicide Prevention Awareness Committee.

Making the decision to attend the walk and vigil that followed wasn’t a hard one for Felix.

“I just felt it was really important and I needed some closure,” she said.

“Like everybody, until it happens to you, you don’t realize the importance of awareness and putting it out there.

“If we can reach out to more people and let them know it’s OK to talk, then maybe someone will talk about their own internal pain, sadness, depression. And maybe avoid future unnecessary deaths.”

Felix said she thinks her sister was suffering and the family only found out after her death that she was dealing with some things.

She’s not sure if she hid it or just didn’t feel like sharing it with her family members.

“And she dealt with it in silence like most people do and she just took her own life.

“She committed suicide without any note, without any warning to anyone.”

As a strong family that comes together when it’s important, Felix said that’s left them struggling with the fact she wouldn’t reach out.

“Going to events and being with people who share your sadness and grief, it brings comfort,” she said.

“We were unable to help her, but we can help someone else. We don’t want to see anybody else have to go through the suffering and pain that our families and friends have had to.”

Felix was surrounded by many of those people — her dad and stepmother, Dave and Nina Hayes; her mom and stepfather, Barbara and Emmerson Ralph; and her brother Darren Hayes — on Tuesday night.

Her message to others struggling and who may be thinking of turning to suicide is to not be afraid to reach out — to talk to someone, get help, seek medical help or talk to a friend.

“There should be no stigma and no reason why you should keep things to yourself, no matter the reason.

“I think we live in a world now that we should be beyond stigmas.”

Michelle Philpott