For only the second time in his life, Jason Clemons found himself thousands of feet in the air and preparing to jump.
For someone who is “pretty darn afraid of heights,” skydiving might seem like an odd pursuit. But as Clemons prepared to leap, his inspiration for the jump gave him resolve.
He remembered the young, blond boy he befriended so many years ago on the beaches of Pawleys Island and the time they spent surfing and sharing the beach. He remembered watching the child grow into a man – a friend to his children and so many others within the community.
And he remembered learning the devastating news of 20-year-old Jack Buffington’s suicide and the crowd that gathered on the beach for the paddle-out ceremony to honor his life. And so Clemons leaned away from the plane and into space.
We are moved beyond words by this amazing act of love for Jack Buffington! Our friend Jason Clemons just jumped out of an airplane to honor Jack and bring awareness to suicide prevention. It's time to talk…. #RealConvo
Posted by Melissa Godwin Buffington on Saturday, June 22, 2019
“I felt compelled to step outside my comfort zone in tribute to Jack and to challenge my community, especially those who stood beside me, hand in hand, toes in the sand, to step up and take action in honor of Jack,” Clemons said. “As a community, state and nation, we need to do more to prevent suicide and make sure people can get help.”
A former licensed professional counselor, Clemons currently manages Tidelands Health Family Medicine practices in Georgetown, Andrews and Hemingway. He has seen firsthand the impact of the lack of available resources to support mental health and knows many people are reluctant to seek care because of the stigma.
So a few months ago, he approached Jack’s parents, Bobby and Melissa Buffington, about the idea of videotaping a skydive to honor their son, raise awareness that it’s normal and acceptable to seek mental health care and to energize efforts to provide more resources for people who need it. The video of his June 22 jump was subsequently posted to Facebook, where it has been viewed thousands of times and received dozens of shares, comments and reactions.
“We loved the idea of him bringing awareness to this,” said Melissa Buffington. “We need to eliminate the negative stigma around mental health and especially talk therapy.”