Daniel Hurd had already tried to commit suicide three times and was planning a fourth attempt when his best friend invited him on a bicycle ride in 2017 — the beginning of a journey that would eventually change his life.
“We rode 20 miles. It felt good in the moment but I still felt the same after,” the Massachusetts man wrote on his website, www.ridewithdanusa.com.
“A few days later we rode again,” he wrote. “This time 30 miles. Again in the moment riding felt good, but this feeling of being in a void lingered.”
Hurd had faced many challenges over the years, including sexual abuse, drug and alcohol addictions, post traumatic stress disorder associated with his military service, and financial problems. And he was struggling to cope.
It wasn’t until their third ride, a much longer and much harder journey of 166 miles, that things really began to change for him.
“What helped me get through it though was the encouragement of my friend who told me ‘stop worrying about what we’ve done and don’t worry what we got left; it’s left right left, one pedal at a time,’” Hurd wrote.
“Taking it ‘one pedal at a time’ became my mantra and my turning point. Hearing that being said to me was like someone throwing a glow stick in the void. My void wasn’t as deep as I thought.”
After that, Hurd picked up some new, more positive addictions: bicycling, helping people and increasing suicide awareness.
Hurd arrived in Pocatello on Thursday to help promote September as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
Officials with the National Institute of Mental Health call suicide a major public health concern that’s responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in the U.S.
It’s the second leading cause of death for those between the ages of 10 and 34 and the fourth for those between the ages of 35 and 54, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Suicide is also a big concern in Idaho.
According to the most recent Suicide in Idaho Fact Sheet, the state had the fifth highest suicide rate in the U.S. in 2018 at 23.8 per 100,000 — 1.5 times the national average — and southeastern Idaho had the highest 5-year average rate in the state at 26.2.
“These statistics are discouraging, but suicide is highly preventable and individuals who experience thoughts of suicide can and do recover when given the help and support needed,” Rhonda D’Amico, Southeastern Idaho Public Health’s Suicide Prevention Program coordinator, said in a recent news release.
Hurd’s life is proof of that.
The veteran who previously tried to take his own life is now helping to save lives.
He owns the nonprofit organization One Pedal At A Time Movement, which raises suicide awareness through education and training and encourages people to get involved in positive outlets, like bicycling.
Hurd continues that activity, which he says saved his life, today. In fact, he’s spent much of the last two and a half years on a bike.
He’s been riding around the country visiting his fellow veterans and raising awareness about suicide. He’s traveled 16,500 miles and passed through 42 states so far.
“I have been blessed to help 79 individuals through suicide interventions, encourage hundreds to find their activities and even more to become part of the change for suicide prevention,” Hurd said.
“Because a large number of suicides are due to financial and daily struggles, I am doing my journey with no actual savings,” he said. “I survive because of donations in various forms.”
Hurd, who is still planning to travel another 5,500 miles and visit six more states, rode into Pocatello on Thursday.
When asked what advice he would give to people concerned about their friends and family members who may be contemplating suicide, he said to listen to them and be willing to ask questions.
“Be willing to listen. We can’t always fix the problems but getting the person in need to talk, judgement free, is huge,” Hurd said. “If you know (someone) that is struggling, be willing to ask the question, ‘Are you thinking about suicide?’”
“The pathway to hope often starts with a simple conversation, but individuals often mistakingly believe that talking about suicide can plant the idea in a loved one’s mind,” D’Amico said in the news release. “In truth, giving a person the space and safety to talk about thoughts of suicide can provide relief and facilitate connections to assistive resources.”
Hurd also urges those who are contemplating suicide to ask for help.
“Things are difficult, but live for today. Reach out for help and ask everyone. You (would) be surprised who is willing to help,” he said. “Also if they aren’t willing to help, they just don’t know how to help or (are) dealing with their own problems. Don’t give up, reach out to me (at) ridewithdanusa.com. Just give me enough time to respond, I don’t always have service.”
For immediate assistance, people can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text “HOME” to the Crisis Text Line, 741741.
For additional resources, people can also visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.