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Mary J. Weiler, Published October 10 2009

Bringing suicide into light

On behalf of the North Dakota Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, I want to thank the Fargo-Moorhead community for helping us raise more than $32,000 at the fourth annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk held on Sunday, Sept. 27.

On a cold and windy Sunday afternoon, we walked together to understand and prevent suicide, to reach out to people struggling with depression and to support those affected by suicide loss.

The Fargo-Moorhead community is making a difference in people’s lives by showing their public support, by being a safe place for those who are struggling and feeling abandoned, and by honoring each other and those we have lost to suicide. The Fargo-Moorhead community is a place where we gain strength every day to make a new and fresh beginning.

We thank The Forum for its continued support of our walk, especially writers Tammy Swift (Sept. 22 “Rising above the hurt”) and Patrick Springer (Sept. 28 “Suicide awareness walk raises $32K”). We thank our generous sponsors: Gate City Bank, MeritCare, Baker Garden & Gift, Prairie St. John’s, Riverview Family Dental, R.D. Offutt Co., Boulger Funeral Home, Sertoma Club, The High Plains Reader, Walmart, Hornbacher’s, Starbucks, Sunmart Foods, Great Harvest Bread and the many other area businesses that donated monetary and in-kind products. We also thank our emcees, Rat of Y-94 and Sandy Buttweiler of KFGO, for their commitment and participation in our walk.

A special thanks to everyone who participated and worked at the walk, including the 42 teams, 500- plus walkers, planning committee members, the North Dakota chapter board of directors and the many volunteers, especially the Concordia College soccer teams, who made the walk possible.

Every dollar raised through the Out of the Darkness Community Walk helps AFSP to fund research at the national level (more than 47 new project grants have been awarded for suicide research at a total of $3.4 million), to fund the development of new survivor of suicide loss support groups in our local communities, and to provide continued education and depression screening events in our local high schools and colleges.

In North Dakota, we lose someone to suicide every four days.

We can no longer say, “As long as it doesn’t happen to me or my family – it’s OK.” We must come to know and understand that a family history of depression is one of the risk factors for suicide.

We can no longer say, “No one could have prevented it.” We must continue to educate ourselves and others about the warning signs of depression and then have the courage to ask the hard questions.

We can no longer say, “It is time to put this behind us and get on with our lives.” We must be able to acknowledge our hurt and end the stigma that prevents survivors from talking about their pain.

Every year, with our community’s support, we are reaching out and saving lives. The fifth annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk will be held on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010, at Lindenwood Park in Fargo.

Thank you to the Fargo-Moorhead community for bringing suicide out of the darkness and into the light.

Weiler is North Dakota chapter board chairwoman, Survivor of Suicide Loss.