WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Nearly 50,000 people died by suicide in 2022, according to the CDC. A Kansas woman is on a mission to decrease that number as she rides her horse through Kansas.

“I would like people to realize that mental health and suicide is not something to be ashamed of,” Sara Voyles said. “It’s not something to sweep under the rug. It’s something that needs to be talked about and addressed. And if you talk about it and address it, then hopefully, no one else will commit suicide, and you won’t have that loved one gone. You won’t have people suffering from the loss of a loved one. And also just help people out so they’re not suffering.”

Voyles lost her son to suicide in August of 2021. She says it shook their community and family beyond words.

“My first year after his death, I really struggled,” Voyles said. “We all struggled with our own mental health, with our own issues and dealing with our loss. And now that we’re going on two years, I have a little bit of a recovery, not much. But during this, it’s kind of helping me work through some things, but a lot of time to think and to just process stuff.”

She started the journey in Nebraska on Labor Day and is riding through Kansas to Manchester, Oklahoma.

“I have talked to a few people and just trying to bring awareness to mental health and make sure that it gets out there, that it’s okay to have struggles but doesn’t mean you have to end it,” Voyles said.”

She chose Kansas Highway 14 so she could be visible.

“I want people to see me,” Voyles said. “I know not everyone’s going to know what I’m doing, but there’s more of a chance to have people figure it out or stop and talk to me if I am visible, and that’s by putting me on the highways. There’s been a couple times I’ve gone to back roads just to location is the fastest way. But also, once I went for safety, the highway was just too busy, and the ditches were too narrow to safely be on it. But I really want people to see me and know even though it’s hard to share my story, it’s important.”

She is unsure whether she will do the ride across Kansas again.

“I think my body says one and done,” Voyles said. “Even though in the scheme of things, it’s not a big thing, I feel like I’ve accomplished something, and I think from here on out, I’ll probably, right now, think about organizing a trail ride. I’ll probably do some trail rides like in the Septembers to come and keep it shorter and simpler.”

Voyles doesn’t want anyone else to experience the hurt she has had to endure.

“If you or someone else is suffering, you should reach out. Don’t keep it quiet,” Voyles said. “Let people know, and work through it. Don’t just keep it a secret and deal with it on your own.”

Voyles is also raising money to go toward some Kansas-based suicide prevention groups. She is accepting Venmo @Sara-Voyles, givebutter.com, and you can text keyword RIDEKS to 53-555.