ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – Several artists finished up a new mural in Englewood Sunday that is meant to show teens struggling with mental health issues they aren’t alone. Two of the people behind it lost their own son, Nick Bales, in 2018 after he took his own life. His mother, Maria Bales, has since worked to take the stigma away from mental illness and make sure teens and their parents don’t experience what her family did.
“There’s a huge gaping hole in our hearts and that will never ever be replaced,” Bales said.
The mural was painted on the outside of Frame de Art on South Broadway in Englewood with the permission of the shop’s owner. It consists of a large yellow sunflower with a crescent moon in the center and space in the background.
The stem of the flower also turns into the logo of Brought to Reality, a clothing brand Nick Bales created in 2016 while a sophomore at Arapahoe High School. The project was a creative outlet for Bales, as well as a way for him to cope with his ongoing mental health struggles.
“This is to create hope for anybody who is struggling, for anybody who has lost somebody to suicide,” Bales said.
On Sunday, Maria Bales and her husband were joined by a group of family members and friends while they saw the mural for the first time.
“Seeing how much BTR meant to them, and it was the symbol and soul of their son, it felt really special to be a part of this project,” said AJ Davis, a Denver-based artist.
Davis and fellow artist, Maddie Freeman, made the mural possible, but the design came from Ryanne Hopp, who this August, took her own life at 18 years old. Freeman said Hopp is one of several friends who have died by suicide since her sophomore year in high school, and creating the mural was a beautiful but painful way for her to honor them.
“Nick left us a gift and he planted the seeds, and I’ve always said we need to water it now and watch it grow and when Ryanne sent me the sunflower, it’s just what my heart felt,” Bales said.
Maria Bales says the mural is a reminder that everyone has their own struggles, but it’s important to know there’s always someone there that wants to help.
“For us to have this be up here and creating such awareness and hopefully bringing help to others, that’s all we could ask for,” Bales said.
Bales’ parents still run his clothing company in his honor and have since set up the Nick Bales BTR Foundation. All proceeds are donated to causes that help kids access the support they need. They also encourage non-traditional therapy that helps kids to cope through activities they enjoy, such as art or wilderness adventures.
If you or someone you love is in crisis, there is help available. You can get free counseling or support through Colorado Crisis Services by calling 1-844-493-8255 or texting “TALK” to 38255. You can also find a list of walk-in center locations at their website coloradocrisisservices.org.