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Walking 'Out of the Darkness'

Everyone is invited to  participate in the upcoming Out of Darkness Walk -- a community event that coincides with  National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

The Lisa Stoltz  family will be walking in memory of Lisa’s brother, Myron Koch, who at the age of 32, died of suicide. Lisa was only 13 years old at the time.

“There’s something missing -- I don’t how else to say it,” said Stoltz, who is a local committee member for the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention.

The Out of Darkness Walk will be held Saturday, Sept. 23, starting at the West River Ice Center in Dickinson. Registration is at 9 a.m., and the walk starts at 10 a.m., with a closing ceremony at 11:30 a.m. Participants will do the loop around the West River Community Center -- walking with pets or your kids, strollers or maybe rollerblades.

“We don’t want it to be a sad day, but more of a hopeful day -- a time to get together to share,” Stoltz said.  “It’s to remember, to share hope because hope is healing. Our closing ceremony will be a balloon ceremony when messages will be attached to the balloons and we’ll let them go.”

Donations will be accepted to support the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention -- part of the money stays with the North Dakota chapter. However, there’s no fee to participate. 

Out of the Darkness Walk co-chairman is Yvonn Weigel-Frank, who has lost three individuals -- two acquaintances and a family member -- to suicide.

“It’s kind of like closing a book and not getting to see what happens in the next chapter,” she said.

Weigel-Frank goes around to the schools to train teachers on suicide prevention.

“You can’t always recognize the signs unless you know what to look for,” she said. “The more people know, the better they are able to see the signs and know what to do.”

If a person sees a community member who seems ‘out of their norm,’ maybe something is wrong. Sometimes, all it takes is to ask a question -- are they thinking of suicide -- without judgement and people will usually start talking. They are relieved somebody notices, she said.

Weigel-Frank has had numerous people tell her how helpful the talks were in moving past the stigma of suicide.

“For every suicide between 5 and 32 people are affected by the loss. It’s so subjective -- nobody fits in a basket. Really, there’s no one sign,” she said.

She hopes the walk raises awareness of suicide and mental health issues. She hopes to spread hope, help and strength.

“A big part of the concept is to remember the people you’ve lost and to know you’re also not alone,” she said.

Interested individuals or teams are encouraged to register at www.afsp.org/dickinsonnd

Any donations will be directed to the Dakota Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The foundation is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. The AFSP promotes mental health through community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy and provides support for those affected by suicide. It’s goal is to reduce the annual suicide rate by 20 percent by 2025.

Fast Facts

* Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 15 and 64 in the United States.

* A person dies of suicide about every 12.8 minutes in the United States.

* Every day, approximately 112 Americans take their own life.

* More than 50 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression.

* More Americans suffer from depression than coronary heart disease, cancer and AIDS.

* Depression is among the most treatable of psychiatric illnesses -- up to 90 percent of people with depression respond positively to treatment and most patients gain some relief from their symptoms.

* The U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255.

Source: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).

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