Oluchi Ojinnaka-Taylor, 36, ran in memory of her daughter Saturday.
As a part of World Suicide Prevention Day, the former mental health counselor joined about 100 others in a 5-kilometer run to benefit the Alachua County Crisis Center.
On Jan. 11, Ojinnaka-Taylor’s daughter Tiyana committed suicide at the age of 17. Wearing a shirt embellished with Tiyana’s photo, Ojinnaka-Taylor said she was still coming to grips with her death.
“It was hard for me because you would’ve thought that I would’ve been able to see the signs and prevent it,” she said. “That’s been the hardest process for me, trying to come face-to-face with that, because I feel like I failed her.”
Hosted by Alachua County’s Friends of The Crisis Center, the run took place at Cofrin Nature Park, located at 4810 NW Eighth Ave.
Sophia Hampton, who helped organize the run, said she hoped it would serve as a way to call attention to mental-health issues and highlight resources available throughout the county.
“We’re doing it to raise awareness, to let people know that you’re not alone out there,” Hampton said.
Participants paid a $30 registration fee, which will be donated to Alachua County’s Friends of The Crisis Center and the Alachua County Crisis Center, Hampton said.
She said she decided to hold the run at Cofrin Nature Park because there is a Survivors of Suicide Memory Garden there.
The garden is dedicated to people who have lost a loved one through suicide, like Ojinnaka-Taylor. Framed sheets of paper offer a list of coping mechanisms and words of encouragement.
“It’s a very powerful place,” Hampton said.
As Ojinnaka-Taylor walked through the park Saturday with family and friends, a phrase printed on their shirts stood as a symbol of the run: “You’re Not Alone.”
She said mental illness is difficult to notice, even for professionals. If someone does not open up about his or her struggles, it’s nearly impossible to treat.
“That’s the thing with Tiyana,” Ojinnaka-Taylor said. “All (anybody) knew about her smile was that she was so nice and helpful, and then they didn’t know her other side. I wish she would’ve told someone — we would’ve been there for her.”
As a part of World Suicide Prevention Day, about 100 Gainesville residents participated in a 5-kilometer run Saturday at Cofrin Nature Park. The run was held by The Friends of the Alachua County Crisis Center.