HANOVER COUNTY, Va. -- A pair of Virginia parents want the state to create a Suicide Awareness and Prevention license plate to invite difficult conversations in an effort to help those suffering in our community.
Jacqui and Tina Herron know a lot about suffering.
Their son Matthew died by suicide in December 2021.
Matthew Herron lived nearly every moment with smiles and laughter, his parents said.
"He was a great kid, full of adventure," Tina Herron said.
"He was honest to a fault,” Jacqui Herron added. "He had a great moral compass."
While the Patrick Henry High School student loved music and thrived behind a piano or on the school drumline, the Herrons had no idea their son was hurting.
"Matthew was just Matthew. He didn’t change a bit," Jacqui said. "Then he walked out the door and didn’t come back.”
"It wasn’t a planned thing," she added. "It was a quick impulsive and tragic decision that he made."
Since his death, his mothers have lived with the unimaginable pain of losing a child and waiting for answers they know will never come.
"I finally know that I couldn’t have done anything," Jacqui said.
The Herrons established the non-profit organization Matthew Matters and have come up with an idea they hope will raise awareness.
“I think he would have said 'do what you need to do to get over me dying,'" Jacqui said. "I think he knows I need to do this to honor him and everyone else who’s been lost. Too many people are dying.”
In January 2023, Virginia lawmakers will consider legislation to create suicide awareness and prevention license plate tags. The design with a purple and teal heart are colors associated with the cause.
“Inside the heart is a semi-colon and the semi-colon is a pause in your life, not an end," Jacqui said.
And that’s the hope the Herrons want every teenager to realize.
That even when life gets hard, there’s a bright future ahead.
"It starts young, getting them to talk about their day, talk about their feelings," Tina said. "It’s OK to talk about your feelings.”
This December the Herrons said they’ll have to find a way to celebrate the holidays without their son. But they want their gift to others to be the memory of Matthew.
“We have to honor those we've lost," they said.
The Herron family needs to have 450 applications for tags in by January for the legislation to be considered. If it passes, the DMV will be able to carry Suicide Awareness plates. Click here to sign up for the license plate.
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