Shining a light in the darkness

PHOTOS BY ROXY STIENBLOCK/PLAINSMAN Volunteers at Saturday’s Out of the Darkness awareness walk and fundraiser included, front row, from left: Kenya Bigelow, Elaine Waldner, Connie Winegar, Chris Stahly and Charlotte Henley. Back row; Kathy Carr, Debbie Busch, Ranae Puterbaugh, Shari Pyle and Maria Bigelow. In the second photo are 163 purple flags - one for each person lost to suicide in the state of South Dakota in 2019. In the third photo, rocks adorned with the names of loved ones who were victims of suicide lined the sidewalk at Campbell Park Saturday morning.

HURON — Here are some sobering statistics.
According to the CDC, one person dies from suicide every 12 minutes in the United States. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, regardless of age, as approximately 123 Americans die by suicide each day, or 44,965 per year. One in every 25 suicide attempts results in death.

On Saturday, The American  Federation of Suicide Prevention’s Out of The Dark community walk was held in Campbell Park. Calling attention to the tragedy of suicide with the groups annual suicide prevention walk.

Out of the Darkness is an organization that strives to bring awareness to the continuing tragedy of suicide. Saturday’s walk raised funds for suicide awareness and prevention.
Hope is a woman who knows first hand the trials that can lead to suicide. She was attending her first Out of the Darkness event Saturday.

“I am walking for myself, and my friend, Nathan who lost his life to suicide, as well as anyone else who feels alone and suffers from suicidal thoughts or attempts,” Hope said.
Hope said she battled depression from a very young age.
“My father died three days before my 5th birthday, and I think after that I never was the same. I was bullied badly in school. There were kids in middle school who tormented me so badly I wanted to kill myself every day,” she said.

“Sometimes I wished God would take my life then having to go through this pain every day at school. I think about when I was 11 when I first felt like hurting myself. I didn’t necessarily at the time want to die. So I started cutting. It made me have a sense of release when I cut. It released all of the emotional pain I couldn’t talk about, I even took a bunch of pills cause I didn’t want to feel anymore, I just wanted to sleep.”

Hope explained how she grew up living in and out of juvenile group homes and boarding schools, turning to partying, taking drugs and drinking alchohol for days to mask her pain.
Things that Hope has learned include understanding that simply talking about mental health is not seeking attention.

People die in silence everyday due to this judgement and then people finally say, ‘I wish they spoke up.’ We as a community need to normalize talking about mental health.
Some people aren’t good at asking for help because they’re so used to being ‘the helper’. Throughout their life they’ve experienced an unbalanced give and take so their instinct is usually “Ill figure it out on my own.”

Many Americans struggle from mental illnesses and yes, some are afraid, embarrassed, even ashamed to seek help. Only half of all Americans experiencing an episode of depression seek treatment. Depression alone affects 20-25% of Americans 18 and above in a year.

RJ, who asked not to share his name, talked about times when he was down the most.

“When my mother died, I had nowhere to turn. I had no friends. I had nowhere to live. I distanced myself from everyone,” he said.

“At first I took many pills such as melatonin, oxycontin; whatever I could get my hands on to numb the pain. I felt the medications I was taking for my depression and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) was increasing my depression and suicidal thoughts so I went off all my medications. I know you’re not supposed to, but at the time I couldn’t take it anymore. The emotions overwhelmed me and I was in the moment, and I had this nagging ‘this is stupid, I shouldn’t kill myself’ feeling.

But he said the dark feelings and emotions take control and some part of a person wants to let them. He said he still gets depressing thoughts all the time, but has learned that he can’t focus on the negativity all the time.

But that was after he went to a very dark place.

“I then began cutting my wrists, then my thighs, and it got to the point I tried to slice my throat in the shower,” he said. “My attempt failed as I saw all the blood and passed out. Now I have a scar on my throat that will remain with me forever.”

“I am here walking today as I found the courage to ask for help,” RJ said. “I stopped isolating from family and I am seeing a counselor and beginning to form a bond with strangers who have now became friends.”

By global statistics, nearly 800,00 people die by suicide in the world each year. That is roughly one death every 40 seconds.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the world for those aged 15-24, and depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.

And there is more.

Suicide among males is four times higher than females, while females are more likely than males to have had suicidal thoughts. Women experience depression roughly two times the rate as males do.

Factor in if the person is LGBTQ and those numbers get more sobering.

Kids who are LGBTQ are three times more likely than straight kids to attempt suicide at some point in their lives, as they often feel alone. They feel something is wrong with them, and they feel ashamed to tell someone.

Here are some ideas to shine a light on the darkness of depression and suicide.

If you see someone falling behind, walk beside them. If you see someone being ignored, find a way to include them.

Always remind people of their worth. What is a small act on your part could mean the world to them.

Anyone can help prevent suicide.

“I’ve now become more aware of my depression and anxiety,” Hope said. “Taking medication and seeing a therapist has been helping, and I’m now more open about talking about it and letting those closest to me know when I’m having an anxiety attack or when I feel one coming on.”

If you are experiencing depression, contact your healthcare provider or reach out to receive mental health counseling.


For more information, go to afsp.org.

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PHOTOS BY ROXY STIENBLOCK/PLAINSMAN Volunteers at Saturday’s Out of the Darkness awareness walk and fundraiser included, front row, from left: Kenya Bigelow, Elaine Waldner, Connie Winegar, Chris Stahly and Charlotte Henley. Back row; Kathy Carr, Debbie Busch, Ranae Puterbaugh, Shari Pyle and Maria Bigelow. In the second photo are 163 purple flags - one for each person lost to suicide in the state of South Dakota in 2019. In the third photo, rocks adorned with the names of loved ones who were victims of suicide lined the sidewalk at Campbell Park Saturday morning.


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