Father hosts art show of dead son's work to raise suicide prevention awareness

Published: Oct. 25, 2016 at 3:41 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 26, 2016 at 1:50 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A Richmond area father hopes his art show will save lives. It features the work done by his son, who is no longer living.

After years of mental health battles, John took his own life. Turning the pages of John's art book is like turning back time for Buddy Terrell.

"Part of my healing process, cataloging his artwork," said Buddy. The pages are filled with artwork by his son, who passed away nearly a year ago after more than a decade fighting mental health issues like bi-polar disorder.

"I found him in his car, he had died of carbon monoxide poisoning," said Buddy. "I went up to his room and found a bible, open to the book of revelations…"

John Terrell was just 30 when he died. The last several years had been a struggle. He d ropped out of school a few times and had trouble holding down a job.

John was committed to mental health facilities at times. Many times, he just struggled to get to the next day.

"My wife and I were on spring break, and we kept noticing our dogs going back in the woods behind the house and we found John back there living in the woods," remembered Buddy.

There were many, many bad days for John's family. Buddy says the family just felt helpless, trying to get John on his feet.

"It was just a constant spiral," said Buddy. "There were times where there were suicide attempts, and let me just say..." Buddy said with a tear in his eye.

Sometimes the words to describe those painful times are hard to find. Through it all, though, John painted, drew and sketched. It's the one thing that made sense.

Buddy, a school art teacher, could connect with that. For John, it was one small way to connect to the world, something his mental health problems had, in many ways, stolen.

"He used that to escape. He used that to connect. It was what made him whole," said Buddy.

Buddy is hosting an art show of John's work starting Friday, Oct. 28. Though there is beautiful work, it's not a beautiful story.

"Let people see this work, the power of it and the beauty of it and then there are the self-portraits that he did that let you see also the struggle and the pain," said Buddy. "You see the bipolar. You see the manic depression in those self-portraits."

But Buddy hopes it might be a story that saves a life, which is why he's sharing John's story.

The art exhibit will be held on Friday at Art Space, located at 0 E. Fourth Street, in Richmond from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Nov. 19 is Suicide Survivor Day. Buddy has a special event planned then, so if you or someone you know is struggling, there will be good resources to get help.

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