ATOKA, Okla. (KTEN) — Two years ago, Coralyne Michaelis and her family experienced unimaginable tragedy. A memorial unveiling next Wednesday at Atoka High School will be a full circle moment for a promise she made.

That pledge was to be an advocate for mental health and suicide prevention after her son, Matthew, passed away in August of 2021.

"I decided I need to stop this, because I saw that it was becoming an epidemic in our southeastern region of Oklahoma," Michaelis said.

The mother of Atoka student Matthew Michaelis has arranged a special memorial for her late son.

To honor Matthew and help others, Michaelis got to work. She helped organize Atoka's first Out of the Darkness Walk, and in a Facebook support group, she discovered a national non-profit called Josh's Benches for Awareness.

The organization works to set up bright yellow benches featuring the National Suicide Prevention Hotline number for students to call any time to get help with mental health issues. 

"If they see that bench, they'll see the 988 number. They'll say, 'Okay, let me call this,'" Michaelis explained.

There wasn't a doubt in Coralyne Michaelis' mind that she was going to raise money for a bench, and Atoka Public Schools jumped at the opportunity to help and honor Matthew.

"We want it to be a beacon so that they can see that there are people here that care, that are concerned for their well being, and we want this to say 'Hey, reach out and talk,'" said Atoka Public Schools spokesperson William Bray.

As the memorial unveiling approaches, Coralyne Michaelis will continue to spread the same message.

"They don't need to think that nobody loves them; they don't need to think that they can't get help, because they can... because suicide is not the answer," she said tearfully.

The Josh's Benches for Awareness memorial unveiling in honor of Matthew Michaelis is set for Wednesday, May 17 at a.m. outside Atoka High School.

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