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A day of hope and healing: 'Out of darkness' walk supports suicide prevention

The “Out of Darkness” Dickinson ND Walk is a day of hope and healing -- an opportunity  to support mental health and to draw attention to suicide prevention.

“If you’re a loss survivor, if you’re a community leader, if you’re a mental health professional -- whatever your story is --  we want you to walk with us,” said Samantha Bruers, area director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Dickinson’s “Out of the Darkness” community walk -- one of seven in North Dakota --  starts with registration at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, at the West River Ice Center, 2004 Fairway St. It’s a family event and pets are welcome.  The opening ceremony is at 10 a.m. and the walk concludes at 11 a.m.

“It’s definitely a walk, not a run -- it’s a great opportunity for people to talk with each other and to connect together to support mental health,” Bruers said.  “We’ll do a healing ceremony at the end.”

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a national organization with chapters dispersed around the country. It funds research, creates educational programs, is an advocate for public policy and support for  survivors of suicide loss.

“We’re volunteers coming together to fight suicide. We have different stories connected to the cause -- some are loss survivors, some are attempt survivors. Suicide affects one in five families. We want to get rid of the stigma behind mental health, we want to talk about mental health as well as physical health.”

There is no registration fee for the walk  -- simply come as an individual, a family or a group of friends.  

“We encourage people to create a community team -- a part of a church group, a business team -- there’s really power in numbers. We have different family and friends teams, volunteer teams. Everyone is welcome,” she said.

“When it comes to survivor resources, its so important we realize we are not alone. When someone dies by suicide, it’s a very unique type of grief. When it comes to suicide prevention, there’s resources available,” said Bruers, whose dad died by suicide when she was a toddler.

“We need to talk more about it, we need to learn the warning signs,” she added.

Among the programs supported by AFSP is, “More than Sad,” a suicide prevention education for teachers and school personnel, and “Talk Saves Lives,” a community-based presentation that covers the scope of suicide, the research on prevention and what people can do to fight suicide.

“These are programs where we focus on warning signs and risk factors of suicide -- the stigma behind suicide makes it worse. The more we talk about it, we can get  rid of stigma and save lives.”

Bruers also referenced the International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day -- the Saturday before Thanksgiving when families and friends of people who died by suicide may join together for healing and support.

“This year there will be Survivor Days across North Dakota -- all volunteer run,” she said.

There’s also survivor outreach programs where trained volunteers -- survivors themselves -- understand the healing and grief process.

“Then after a death, the volunteer connects with survivors -- giving them resources and area support groups. They know they are supported and not alone,” she said.

Bruers praised the volunteers who are organizing the Dickinson walk.

“They are so wonderful -- they are so connected to a cause that’s so close to them. They work so hard because they believe in what they do. We have incredible volunteers.”

“We’re a small group of volunteers, but it all comes together,” said Dickinson committee member Lisa Lynn. “We want to raise awareness and have a day of hope and healing. One new thing this year are the bandanas. For a donation, your dog can walk with you and wear the bandana. Last year we exceeded our goal and are hoping to do that again.”

Raise $150 by Sept. 22 and receive an official “Out of the Darkness” walk T-shirt. Go to AFSP.org/dickinsonnd to register yourself or your team. Online registration closes at noon the Friday before the walk.Registration continues at the ice center on the day of the event.

The 24/7 suicide prevention lifeline is 800-273-8255. It’s free and confidential.

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