Sharing hope, awareness are key to suicide prevention

Postpartum depression followed by an accident that led to a long recovery and post-traumatic stress pushed one Minot woman to the edge.

“I reached out for attention,” she said. She took an excessive dose of sleeping pills, although not enough to be a successful suicide attempt.

Today, “Janet” is doing well. But too often that’s not the case when someone comes to the point of considering suicide.

Awareness and prevention is the goal of the 10th annual Out of the Darkness Walk taking place in Minot’s Oak Park this Saturday.

Organizers Twyla and Cellest Hofer said last Friday that 230 registrations already had been received. They expect about 500, having registered 487 last year. The 2018 walk raised just over $23,000, exceeding the goal of $20,000. This year’s goal from the walk and associated fundraisers is $25,000, all of which stays locally in the community to support education and advocacy efforts.

The suicide of Cellest Hofer’s swim coach prompted the family to get involved in the first suicide walk. They increasingly became involved, particularly after a family member attempted suicide multiple times.

“In Minot, the numbers are not getting any better so we are very concerned about getting the message out,” Twyla Hofer said. “It doesn’t affect just one group. It affects everyone. Having this as a community project – a community walk – can bring everybody together.

Janet understands the circumstances and mindset that can prompt thoughts of suicide. Following her experience with the sleeping pills, she sought in-patient psychiatric help. A few years later, she decided she needed to make changes to get her health back on track, and last May, she was able to discontinue her medicines, including her anti-depressant.

“I’m fabulous,” she said. “I’m more me than I’ve ever been.”

She said she believes her depression was largely situational, and she’s now developed a better support system along with new skills and a better outlook that’s enabling her to move forward more positively.

“You’ve got to take control of your life. You need to be aware of the choices you make and be responsible for the decisions you make. Everything is in your hands – your life, your choice,” she said. “You’re the only one that makes your happiness.”

She also takes a different view of difficult times when they come.

“Your situation is not the end of the story. No matter how bad things are today, tomorrow will be a better day,” she said.

It helps to remember that leaving the people who love you and need you the most only shifts the hurt, Janet said.

“I don’t want to hurt the people that I love. Even if my situation is as hard and difficult as I may think it is, it doesn’t make people love me any less or any different. They still want me in their lives,” she said.

Walkers who wish to participate in Out of the Darkness can register between 10 a.m. and noon at the event or in advance until Friday. Registration information is available through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website at https://afsp.donordrive.com by clicking on the AFSP Walks link to locate the Minot walk.

The opening ceremony begins at 11:30 a.m. with Scott Burlingame as featured speaker. The walk begins at noon, and the closing ceremony will be at 1:30 p.m. The walk begins at the Oak Park shelter and follows the walking path through the park. One lap is about 1.3 miles. Walkers can choose to make one lap or two.

Walkers who raise $150 or more receive a free T-shirt. Apparel also will be available to purchase.

Area residents who don’t wish to walk still are encouraged to attend and participate in the other activities.

Local resources agencies will have booths at the event. Magic City Equality and Minot State University Active Minds are two of the newer groups among the growing number of resource agencies with booths at the annual walk. The local ambulance service, fire department and police will have vehicles on site for people to view and personnel to provide information.

Another activity geared toward children but available to anyone who attends will be rock painting. Messages of hope and encouragement can be painted on the rocks, which people can take with them or place around the park.

A silent auction will include a number of items donated by area businesses. Hot dogs and hamburgers will be served after the walk.

Among potential uses for the money raised are distribution of depression and bipolar awareness education DVDs, suicide prevention efforts on the college campus and support for the More Than Sad program on teen depression at the high schools.

“The kids that are being affected are getting younger and younger so we want to get these programs into the high schools and into the elementary schools,” Cellest Hofer said.

Funds also may be used to support a state advocacy day for suicide prevention policies, training field advocates to lobby for legislation and training facilitators to lead support groups for survivors of suicide loss.

Minot’s Out of the Darkness walk is among about 400 suicide prevention walks taking place around the country. Most walks occur in September, which is National Suicide Awareness Month.

Minot also will observe International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day on Nov. 23 with an event to include food, a program and an opportunity for survivors to connect.

U.S. Suicide Statistics:

— In 2017, there were 47,173 reported suicide deaths.

— Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death.

— Every day, approximately 129 Americans take their own life.

— 90% of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death and 50% suffer from major depression.

— There are 3.54 male suicides for every female suicide, but three times as many females as males attempt suicide.

— The number of people visiting a hospital for injuries due to self-harm behavior suggest that about 12 people harm themselves (not necessarily intending to take their lives) for every reported death by suicide.

— Suicide often is linked to major depression, which affects nearly 5% to 8% of Americans ages 18 and older. More Americans suffer from depression than coronary heart disease, cancer, and HIV/AIDS. Between 80% and 90% of people with depression respond positively to treatment.

— Suicide is best prevented through early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of depression and other mental health conditions.

Source: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention