October 25, 2012 | Volume 117, Issue No. 43

Walking to raise suicide awareness

Fourth annual Suicide Awareness Memorial Walk held

"Taking part in the Memorial Walk gives us the opportunity to go to that quiet place inside where the person is still remembered as they were. When a loved one commits suicide, a person is left with many questions," Dr. Claudia Weber, a psychologist with the University of Minnesota Duluth's Medical School, told those attending the fourth annual Suicide Awareness Memorial Walk October 13 beginning at Bethesda Evangelical Lutheran Church in Carlton.

Meghann Condit
Despite the wet weather, those participating in the fourth annual Suicide Awareness Memorial Walk took to the trails in Carlton October 13 to not only promote suicide awareness, but remember loved ones lost to suicide.

"When a loved one commits suicide, a person is left with many questions.

Somehow their life seems incomplete," continued Dr. Weber. "There is personal discomfort for those left behind. Questions about, 'What if I had only noticed ... If I'd only said something ... Why didn't they say something?' The questions are endless. Survivors find it uncomfortable to tell others what happened. Sometimes the normal support for the loss by death isn't there. Beliefs about what the world is about are shaken. It is important to know that the suicide is not who that person was. Coming together for the Memorial Walk is important to survivors. It is an opportunity to get support from others who understand," Dr. Weber told those attending the event.

The Suicide Awareness Memorial Walk was an idea formulated by Jo Angell, who lost her son to suicide. Each year, the walk is held the second Saturday in October in Carlton.

The gatherings provide an opportunity for sharing of memories, a time for remembrance and celebration of the life of the loved one lost. Dr. Weber encouraged people to be honest with others and to be aware that it is common to feel the stigma of depression and death by suicide.

All participants in the walk were encouraged to tie a ribbon on the banner in memory of the person lost to suicide; each person also wrote the name of the person they were walking in honor of during the walk. Some groups wore matching shirts or buttons identifying a loved one lost to suicide.

The event also provides an opportunity to offer education about suicide and mental health issues that can cause suicidal thoughts. The Carlton County Suicide Prevention Task Force holds classes to educate people on the signs and symptoms of depression and suicidal behavior. Classes are also offered providing intervention skill training to professionals and lay persons in the community.

The Suicide Awareness Memorial Walk was organized by members of the Carlton County Suicide Prevention Task Force, including Angell. The Task Force, consisting of many community members, as well as professionals, continues to meet and plan further events and projects for suicide prevention and education in Carlton County. The event is also supported by a federal grant from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) called TXT4Life.

Anyone wanting more information regarding suicide awareness can contact Meghann Condit, Health Educator for Carlton County Public Health and Human Services, at (218) 879-4511.

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