According to the American Foundation on Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. As of 2017, there were an estimated 1,300,000 suicide attempts. Additional data from the AFSP states that on average, there are 129 suicides per day.
As per the United States Veterans Administration, as of June 2018, suicide rates increased for both Veterans and non-Veterans around the country. The average number of Veterans who died by suicide each day remained unchanged at 20. The suicide rate increased faster among Veterans who had not recently used Veterans Health Administration health care than among those who had, according to the VA.
U.S. Navy veteran Daniel Hurd and attempter of suicide began “Ride With Dan USA,” a mobile suicide awareness campaign, as a way to inform people about the alternatives to the permanent solution. And to let people know that even total strangers can help another person out in a time of need.
Hurd’s cause mainly started out of the constant yet sincere pleas from a close friend of his who saw that Hurd was hurting himself, he said.
“After getting out of the hospital for my third suicide attempt in 2017, my friend got me a bike,” Hurd said. “He and I would go on rides even though I didn’t want to go. He was always there. Every ounce of his being was like, ‘No, you’re coming with me, and we’re riding, now.’”
According to Hurd, he went along with his friend because he was biding his time to attempt his fourth suicide.
“I did it just to spend some time with him before I up and tried it again,” he said. “But after a month or so, something clicked in my head. I found out that bicycling is what puts me in my ‘Zen’ phase. I realized that I could go longer distances and at extremely harder paces than normal. To be honest, I couldn’t imagine myself doing this looking back at what I’ve done so far.”
That’s when on March 5, 2018, Hurd began the journey from Plymouth, Massachusetts and throughout New England. Hurd stated that the trip was actually meant to be short and heal his mental wounds about leaving the service.
“The long-distance biking started to get my mind right because I had left the military, something I enjoyed,” Hurd said. “The happiest time in my life was when I was in the Navy. It wasn’t the job or taskings per se. It was the people who I surrounded myself with. They made me very happy to be alive. They were more family to me than my actual biological family. And when I left the service, things changed. I changed. But, the ride turned into something different.”
According to research by the University of California at Santa Cruz, “anyone who feels down most of the day nearly every day for weeks or months may be clinically depressed. Depressed individuals may experience loss of pleasure in virtually all activities, difficulty with concentration or memory and feelings of worthlessness and self-blame or exaggerated feelings of guilt.”
At first, Hurd said that he was wasn’t going to go too far out of Massachusetts and the surrounding area.
But a spark happened.
“I hit a couple of states here and there,” he said. “I figured that I’d just keep going and it’s been pretty exciting.”
Since his start, Hurd has made it through places such as Maine, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, and Georgia. As of the publication of this article, Hurd said he was heading back north after making it to the country’s most southern point in Key West, Florida.
While on his journey, Hurd has made numerous friends who said his biking has helped them, he said.
“What keeps me motivated are the lives I touch through my travels,” Hurd said. “I’ve had nine people tell me in-person that I encouraged them to keep living. Thirty-eight people along my way who commented on my website said ‘I didn’t commit suicide because of what you’re doing.’ That’s really inspiring to say the least.”
There was one person in particular that caught Hurd’s attention, he said. It turned out to be a life-saving moment, too.
“It was surreal, she was about half a mile from jumping over a bridge I had already gone over,” Hurd stated. “It was the early stages of this venture, so I was stopping to say hello and to inform people of what I’m doing. I felt something strange, so I gave her my card. She messaged me later that night and informed me that she planned to jump off the bridge that day. She told me that it seemed like a sign that I was passing through and she was thrilled that I did.”
According to Hurd, he was amazed that everything worked out with the stranger. The journey he said, is about healing his personal injuries. But if he gets to help one person from committing suicide, it’s worth the stops, Hurd stated.
The cross-country trip was not all seriousness, he said.
“After traveling a long distance, I had to make a stop and get some rest,” he said. “I stopped over to a friend’s house and got something to eat. There were a few guests there too. I got a chance to eat and fell into a deep sleep because I was really tired from that ‘leg’ of the trip. I was so tired that I didn’t wake up when they painted my finger and toenails pink. It was really funny.”
As to any lasting demons, Hurd said that every day is a blessing and he always takes it one day at a time.
“Every day is a challenge. That’s why I’ve learned coping skills because I know it’s a long and hard way to go,” said Hurd. “I am just very fortunate to have survived and this opportunity to learn more about myself and people I meet along the way. This undertaking was meant to heal myself. I did not know biking across the country would allow me to help others heal themselves.”
According to Hurd, his journey will take him all the way from Florida and onto Seattle. So far, Hurd has traveled a distance of 7, 105.5 miles through 18 states in order to finish the three-year, 25,000-mile trip, he said.
"The year 2019 is going to be my first full 365 days of biking," Hurd stated. "I'm looking forward to making more progress and reflecting on the past just long enough to make a better future for myself and anyone els I meet along the way."
You can follow his travels, here.
Tommy Lamkin, or to those who follow his Instagram page, “Mermaid City,” has taken his unhappiness and turned it into amazement, joy, and happiness.