The “Out of the Darkness” walk for the American Society for Suicide Prevention was, well, a doggone success. Walkers trekked north of Currie with the help of a four-footed friend.
A message rang out loud and clear along the winding End-O-Line path Saturday morning: It’s time to eradicate the stigma associated with depression and mental illness with a new openness and awareness.
“People who are diagnosed with cancer, don’t have to feel embarrassed,” said Faye Prairie, a speaker at the “Out of the Darkness” benefit walk for the American Society for Suicide Prevention. People who suffer from depression, she said, have a disease of the brain. And yet too often, there is a stigma attached to mental illness that prevents sufferers from reaching out for help, she said.
“If you have a broken leg, you go see a doctor. If you suffer from depression, you shouldn’t feel that you have to hide that,” said Praire.
The Saturday morning walk was organized by Laura duCharme, who lost her first husband, Terry Vandromme, to suicide 20 years ago; and Kris Tiegs, whose nephew, Nick Hansen, who took his own life four years ago.
About 180 people participated in the walk. More than $12,000 was raised, greatly exceeding expectations.
duCharme, said she was overwhelmed by the response. Initially, she’d been doubtful that a $5,000 fund-raising goal could be reached. Plans are to make the walk an annual event.
Walkers included several families who had lost loved ones to suicide.
Prairie, who lost her 17-year-old son Luke, to suicide in the summer of 2009, said she never in a million years imagined that one day she would get a phone call, with the shocking news that her son had shot himself. She and other family members had no hint that anything was bothering Luke.
“Luke had everything going for him. He had friends. He was smart. He had a supportive family.” Unknown to anyone, he also was suffering from a hidden mental disease.
Prairie expressed the hope that erasing the stigma of mental illness will make it easier for people living with depression to reach out for help.
She also stressed that people who have lost loved ones to suicide, should not beat themselves up with “what ifs,” such as “what if I had said or done something different the last time I saw (him or her).” A suicide, she said, is the cumulative result of events and feelings that have been building over a long period of time, like a drip that slowly fills a glass to the point of overflowing.
“It’s not just one thing that triggers it,” she said.
Prairie complimented Saturday’s walk for its mental health awareness and suicide prevention message, and the healing camaraderie that it offered participants.