‘Out of the Darkness’ sheds light on suicide
Published: Monday, September 24, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 24, 2012 13:09
Fargo-Moorhead citizens walked to raise awareness Sunday as people across the nation participate in similar events during Suicide Prevention Month.
This is the seventh year of the North Dakota Out of the Darkness walk, which took place at Lindenwood Park in Fargo.
Under the Rotary Pavilion approximately 850 participants gathered to listen to speakers, and prepare for their walk.
Teams walked while wearing shirts and carrying signs with pictures and names of loved ones they lost by suicide.
They also wore colored beaded necklaces. Each color symbolized who died by suicide and their relationship to the individual. Mothers wore white necklaces and friends wore purple. Some participants wore multiple necklaces.
The proceeds from the walk go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
AFSP funds scientific research, and education for professionals and the public about mood disorders and suicide prevention.
It also promotes policies and legislation that impact suicide and prevention and reaches out to survivors of suicide and people at risk.
“Suicide is the third leading cause of death among those 15-24 years old,” Jill Brandt, an event coordinator for the North Dakota AFSP chapter said.
Suicide can affect everyone in the community and does not discriminate by demographics Brandt said. Suicide is connected to psychiatric disorders, depression, alcohol or drug abuse or post-traumatic stress disorder.
“The more I’ve learned about mental health issues being interconnected to suicide, it makes me realize how important it is for people to not hesitate to get help,” Brandt said. “It can save lives.”
Every four days someone in North Dakota commits suicide and 36,000 die by suicide nationally each year. “Is it a crisis?” Brandt said. “Absolutely yes!”
Each of those statistics has a face and a story.
The North Dakota chapter of Out of the Darkness was started by Mary Weiler, and her family, after she lost her daughter Jennifer by suicide in Oct. 2005.
Weiler researched to find help for herself and found the AFSP. The Weiler family organized the first walk in two months and every year since it has grown and planning begins 5-6 months in advance.
Brenda Weiler said her sister Jennifer was depressed and had anxiety for many years. The family was shocked by her death and did not see the warning signs.
“Looking back you have 20/20 vision,” Brenda Weiler said. If people in Jennifer’s life had known the warning signs someone could have intervened sooner.
Out of the Darkness strives to bring awareness and light to the topic of suicide. It is not talked about due to the shameful stigma people feel Brandt said.
“No one hesitates to get medical treatment for physical illnesses, like diabetes or a broken bone, yet people are embarrassed to get help for a broken bone” Brandt said.
The walk was approximately a two and a half mile loop around Lindenwood Park, South University and the surrounding neighborhoods. Afterwards there was an open mic for participants to share stories about their loved ones lost by suicide or their personal struggles.
Brenda Weiler said the purpose is to create a safe space for people to share sometimes about someone they lost 20-30 years ago.
The walk was free to participants, but each was encouraged to donate or find sponsors to contribute $150. The Out of the Darkness walk wanted to raise $60,000 this year.
There are many local sponsors for the walk including: Prairie St. Johns, Gate City Bank, Sam’s Club, Valley News Live and Y-94. Together the sponsors donated over $12,000 to this years walk.
The ND AFSP chapter also offers an anonymous online screening program to target high-risk students at NDSU and UND.
Anyone can donate online through December 31st at www.outofthedarkness.org
For more information about the warning signs of suicide visit www.afsp.org