Teen suicide inspires woman’s crusade for mental health awareness
As manager of a local fitness club, Ashley Applen had only met a teenager who used the gym on the night before he committed suicide. But the tragedy has inspired her to lead a crusade to spread awareness of mental health issues.
“He played with my son and was very well known for interacting with young kids,” Applen said of Wyatt Coy, a Kasson-Mantorville senior who took his life Jan. 19. “He was a great role model.”
Prior to personally meeting the teen, Applen took notice of him as he worked out in the club lifting weights and running. “He was always happy and smiling,” she said, adding he loved being around the club. Applen is the manager at Anytime Fitness in Kasson.
Though she didn’t have much direct contact with him, Applen took Coy’s death especially hard and now wants to honor his memory by organizing a 5K walk/run family event in Kasson on May 13. Besides the walk and run, the event will feature a bouncy house for young kids and booths dealing with mental health awareness for families.
Applen is seeking cash donations and supplies for the race. Donations over $100 will include a business logo on the back of the T-Shirts for the race. She hopes this will be a huge event for the community.
In addition to Applen leading the effort, she is receiving help from Kelly Derby, who is the planner for Mantorville’s Stage Coach Days. “She has been a big help for me,” Applen said.
“This seems to be recurring thing in this community so we want people to have the necessary information,” Applen said. Suicide, she added, is not the answer because it hurts so many people.
Funds raised from the event will be donated to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Applen said. NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for millions of Americans who face mental illness every day.
Many people have difficulty understanding mental health, according to Applen. “It’s OK to not be OK,” she said.
“We want to educate the community to spread the awareness on mental health,” Applen said, adding no family should ever have to go through suicide.
Most importantly, Applen wants the event to provide some support to the Coy family. “We want them to feel relief and support from the community. We want them to smile again,” she said. “They can’t get their son back, but we can always remember him. Support is important.”