BROOKVILLE — Clinton Baker, along with her dog Luna, camped near the United Methodist Evangelical Church lodge over the weekend as part of their trek across the country to raise awareness and prevent suicide.
Baker has walked, without the aid of amusement rides except in emergencies, across the country to the West Coast, along the coast and back to the East Coast once. He is now on his way west for his second trip. He said he lost track after 7,000 miles.
He walks and livestreams on his Facebook page several times a day to raise suicide awareness, spark conversation and hopefully help someone come out of a dark time in their life. He started walking after his own suicide attempt and said he was ready to pitch in to help others.
His live streams and travels can be found on Facebook at “March for Suicide Prevention”, where he broadcasts live morning, afternoon and evening what he is doing and how he is feeling. Something important to him is that he doesn’t hide how he really feels, and if he’s upset or sad about something, he shares it to show others that they can overcome emotions and difficult thoughts.
Baker said it can get very lonely walking and camping most of the time.
“Yesterday morning I was in tears, I was quite lonely because you don’t meet a lot of people…you go days and days and days without talking to people. So yesterday it happened to me. It was kind of funny, at the end of the day I was here and I had the church, the fellowship and people bringing us food and it was just amazing,” Baker said.
Baker was connected to the EUM church through one of his disciples who is originally from Brookville, Alison Beck Castiglione. Castiglione lost her husband, Gregory Castiglione, to suicide on July 31, 2014. He served in Iraq from 2008 to 2009.
Greg Castiglione was from Brockway and was a volunteer firefighter with the Brockway Fire Department at 14 and a paramedic at 16. He enlisted in the army as early as possible, at age 17. He worked for the Brockway Ambulance Service.
He and Alison have two children, a son and a daughter.
The day Castiglione committed suicide, he was given the E6 rank. He was a Private in the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team 1/112, Charlie Company.
“Greg’s favorite vegetable was broccoli, he was Italian, he loved to dance. He always had a smile on his face. There were times when PTSD would bring him down or he would get angry, but that was part of PTSD and I was doing what I could to help. The VA (Veterans Affairs) fired him. The therapist told him “if you’re not going to just talk about the military and keep talking about fire and EMS, don’t come back.” He felt defeated and that was the last time he was going to speak to anyone,” Alison Castiglione said.
Baker shared Alison and Greg Castiglione’s story on his page while he was in the area, and when he started walking again, it was in honor of Greg Castiglione. As he meets new people in the cities he visits, he will walk in honor of their loved ones who have died by suicide.
“We start with a photo and a description of what they like – their passions – then throughout the day we talk about it and share photos throughout the day to show people what’s going on. happened after the suicide. I kind of focus on the kids,” Baker said. “I walk for many children, up to 10 years old.”
He said the more people shared their stories with him, the more he needed to be out there doing what he was doing. He focuses on children because he said it was up to parents and the adults in their lives to talk to them and open up the conversation about mental health and suicide.
“How can a child deal with suicide when I, as an adult, cannot deal with it? And they don’t see what they’re doing, they don’t see the future,” Baker said.
Baker said children don’t have the ability to think about the future like adults, and only know the pain they feel now, which drives some of them to suicide. He said it’s much easier for kids to be bullied today because the bully doesn’t have to be in front of them.
“I know I can’t do it all, and I don’t expect to do it all and save everyone, but I believe I can cause a domino effect,” Baker said.
After his suicide attempt, Baker said he realized he had to make some serious changes in his own life or he would find himself on the same dark path again. He said he made the decision to sell everything he had, pack his bags and start walking. He added some signs about suicide prevention and found purpose in talking to others who had been through or knew someone who was also struggling with depression, addiction, or suicide.
“I was suicidal and going back to drugs, and I said ‘this is not the life I want to lead,'” Baker said. “So there’s a lot of stuff in this march, it’s mental illness, it’s depression, it’s addiction. It’s a bunch of stuff. It’s not just suicide.”
Baker experienced many losses of family members which led to his suicide attempt. He comes from a family of 10 and has lost his father and five of his siblings to various health complications and circumstances. He also lost his son at just 6 weeks old. After the death of his youngest brother, it was more than he could bear.
When he first started walking, his plan was to hit every state with a high suicide rate, and he wanted to go from Florida to Alaska. When he got to Mississippi is when COVID started shutting things down.
“It affected everything. It made it so much harder because everyone was avoiding me even more because they were like ‘you don’t know if you have it or not’,” Baker said. “I didn’t have anyone I was really in touch with…”
He said people had stopped inviting him to their homes for a few nights and it was hard to find stocked malls to shop. Churches were among the only places he could find energy to camp. Even though it got harder, Baker said he had his tent, so he kept going.
While he was walking, he took a break for several months because his mother died. He took time to heal from this new loss, then continued on his way.
“It’s hard to stop. It’s hard to stop trying to save a life. I’m not trying to be a hero, but I really just want to help people now,” Baker said. “And everyone who’s lost someone to suicide is going to stop, so I hear all these stories, and I just want to change something.”