On October 6, 2005, at the age of 33, my older sister Jennifer took her own life. She’d suffered from major depression and severe anxiety for many years.
She was a talented, intelligent, loving person, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about her and miss her.
At the time of Jennifer’s death, I didn’t know much about suicide. In fact, I remember receiving an email that day about a suicide awareness walk (in Portland, Oregon, where I was living at the time) and thinking “Thank God that will never happen in my family.”
I got the call that very night from my mom telling me what happened and I boarded the plane with my husband early the next morning to go home.
Over time, I’ve come to learn that more than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have an illness such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or substance abuse—sometimes diagnosed, sometimes not.
While suicide is typically the result of a complicated stew of life events and circumstances, the main ingredient is almost always an underlying illness. Just as people can die of heart disease or cancer, they can die as a consequence of mental illness.
I’ve also learned that I’m hardly alone: research shows that more than 60 percent of us will lose someone we know to suicide during the course of our lifetimes; more than 20 percent of us will lose a family member.
Nevertheless, the historical stigma surrounding suicide persists, leaving many survivors of suicide loss feeling misunderstood and abandoned, yearning for comfort and understanding.
Survivors may turn to support groups, where they can talk openly without fear of being judged. There are over 400 suicide bereavement support groups throughout the U.S., along with countless online groups.
Other survivors read voraciously, learning everything they can about suicide and its aftermath.
Still others find a powerful sense of community and healing at survivor conferences and suicide prevention walks such as the Out of the Darkness Community Walk.
Our Third Annual Fargo-Moorhead walk is taking place this Sunday September 28th. It’s a time for survivors to come together to remember and honor those they’ve lost, as well as an opportunity to raise much needed funds for suicide prevention, research, education, and survivor support.
More information on this event and how to register can be found online at www.outofthedarkness.org.
Suicide not only affects families, it affects entire communities. Please join us as we walk to save lives, erase the stigma, and support those left behind.
If You Go
What: Fargo-Moorhead Out of the Darkness Community Walk.
Where: Island Park Gazebo
When: Sun, Sept 28, 2-4 pm, check in at 1 pm.
Info: http://www.outofthedarkness.org or call 701.219.4110.
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