MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - It’s been almost a year since New Hampshire native Clinton Baker departed from Florida on a nationwide walk to raise awareness about suicide.
“We are out here to help other people and help ourselves at the same time,” Baker said inside of a hotel in Prattville.
So far, Baker has walked nearly 5,000 miles. He started in Florida and made the trip to Washington State before turning around and heading back to Florida. On his return trip, he headed south through Alabama.
“Alabama has just been outrageously amazing to us,” Baker said. “People put us up in a hotel and let us rest and we got everything we need, I couldn’t ask for more.”
Baker said he knows all too well the impact suicide can have. He struggled with suicide himself after losing his father, three younger brothers and son.
“I just wanted the easy way out, and life is too good to do that,” Baker said. “They walk beside me everyday and they’re proud of me, I know that.”
Baker said that experience is what led him to help raise awareness about suicide prevention. He can be seen holding up signs that read #suicidesux and #stopbullying. He can sometimes be seen wearing a yellow sign on his back with the words “Don’t kill yourself” along with the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
“I’m out there just to show people that even though you suffer you can still go and you can still make it,” Baker said. “Through my suffering I hope others see that and it inspires them to keep going.”
Baker said people have come up and talked to him from all across the country to share their own stories.
Over 1,000 people follow and support him on his Facebook page called Suicide Prevention Walk, and they keep track of his progress.
Baker said he began the journey walking with his service dog, who was sadly hit by a tractor-trailer in Watonga, Oklahoma. It wouldn’t be long, however, before he met a stray a who would join him for the remainder of the trip. He named the Great Dane Watonga in honor of the service dog he lost.
“This one came over and licked on me and I said you’re the one,” Baker said.
Baker started the journey on Feb. 1, before the COVID-19 pandemic, but if you ask him, he said there was not a better time to start the trek.
“God put us out here for a reason. People look for that last sign, and say ‘God give me that last sign’, and I want to be that last sign,” Baker said.
Baker said he hopes to help make it easier for families to start the conversation about suicide.
“It’s a hard topic to talk about, it really is,” Baker said. “But maybe we are the sounding board.”
Baker and Watonga are nearing the end of their journey, but the push for awareness continues.
“Life isn’t always good and it can get worse but it can always get better and if we’re positive about it and try to find the good in life and do kind things for others it’ll all come back, that’s what I believe,” Baker said.
Anyone in a suicidal crisis is asked to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
If you want to follow Baker and Watonga on the rest of their journey, search for Suicide Prevention Walk on Facebook.