BRUSH PRAIRIE, Wash. (KOIN) – Jeremy Duggins strapped on his helmet, grabbed his bike and set off on a journey to ride hundreds of miles for suicide awareness.
Duggins, 48, an elementary school teacher in the Hockinson School District, is biking the entire West Coast as part of a new documentary called, “1700 Miles.” The film features the Brush Prairie resident as he gears up for his trip along with an interview the Oregon area director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
As part of the journey, Duggins hopes to raise $30,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“Suicide has been a dominant part of my life,” said Duggins. “I’ve lost friends, I’ve lost family. In 1997, I attempted suicide myself, and luckily, I survived. So, I just knew that I wanted to raise money for this specific cause.”
So far, he has cycled close to 450 miles after starting his trip on June 20. Duggins had to stop for a couple of days in Montesano, Wash., when the heat wave arrived last weekend.
Most people wouldn’t be up for this kind of challenge, but he says it’s worth it to save lives.
“I get messages from people that are like, ‘What you’re doing started a conversation with my son or daughter or whoever, and we’ve never done that before,’” recalled Duggins. “That’s the goal of the whole thing, to get people talking about it.”
He remembers tearing up reading the heartwarming and supportive messages from people throughout the community before heading off on his trip.
Duggins’ dedication to the cause is exactly what 20-year-old Marcie Caddell wanted to capture as the director in the film, “1700 Miles,” she said.
Caddell recently graduated from Mt. Hood Community College and was unable to produce her final project due to the coronavirus pandemic. When she heard about Duggins’ story, she wanted to bring it life through video.
“He just ended up stepping to the plate and was like, ‘I need to talk about this to help people,’” said Caddell. “That can be really scary to talk about personal things, especially right now where everybody can see it.”
She says that it’s important to talk about suicide because it’s something that people go through alone and might build up over time.
“Sometimes it feels like an instant moment where they go through something really shocking, and they think it’s their only option in that moment of pressure,” added Caddell.
Despite having a film made about him, Duggins hopes the focus can be on helping others and starting a conversation about mental health issues.
“We can stop people from getting to the point of trying suicide to find a way out,” he said. “We can talk to them, and we can support them. We can love them.”
Duggins will also honor – while biking – one person each day who has died of suicide.
If you or someone you know needs help regarding suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.