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Wendy Reuer, Published September 20 2010

Walking out of the darkness

Susie Hanson sought medical attention for her disease, but like many conditions, her post-traumatic stress syndrome and depression already had too strong of a grip. She was dead a week after telling her parents she was sick.

Hanson committed suicide in 2000, but 10 years later, her family hopes her story won’t be forgotten, nor will others who share a similar story.

Her parents, Jayne and Brian Hanson, will share their story about suicide at the annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk. The event is Sunday at Fargo’s Lindenwood Park.

“It’s a huge awareness event for the issue of suicide and mental illness,” said Brenda Weiler, event organizer.

Weiler and her family organized the first Out of the Darkness event in 2006. It was held on the anniversary of her sister Jennifer Weiler’s death.

“It’s to help people that have gone through what my family has gone through. It’s a good way to bring people together and support one another. It’s pretty easy to feel alone when (suicide) happens. This event is a pretty powerful tool for survivors and also for those who are suffering from depression or any other mental disorder,” Weiler said.

Jayne and Brian Hanson knew something was wrong with their daughter but couldn’t quite figure out what.

Susie’s behavior changed around the age of 15 when she went from an outgoing, friendly girl to withdrawing from friends, activities and her family.

“Susie was what we considered a normal teenage girl,” Jayne Hanson said. “It seemed like all of a sudden, someone just flipped a switch.”

Despite a drop in grades, Susie graduated high school and began attending the University of Minnesota Crookston. There, while studying equine science, Susie found a therapist who eventually diagnosed her as suffering from depression and PTSD.

In August 2000, she told her parents she had been raped when she was 15.

“With (Susie) and so many like her, that catastrophic event is what triggered her illness,” Jayne Hanson said.

Less than a week later, Susie took her own life, on Aug. 5, 2000, at the age of 21.

“Anyone who suffers from depression or PTSD, it doesn’t have to end that way,” Jayne Hanson said. Jayne and Brian, both from the Fargo area, said they tried to talk with Susie to find out what was wrong throughout her teen years, but she would always just say she was fine.

“We’ll always wonder if (the disease) could have been caught sooner or prevented; maybe it would have been easier to treat,” Jayne Hanson said.

Now they share their story through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, hoping it will help others recognize the warning signs of possible suicide.

According to the AFSP, nearly 1 million Americans attempt suicide every year, and 33,000 die. About 20 million people in the U.S. suffer from depression.

The Hansons, along with the hundreds of others who have signed up, will be at Sunday’s walk to show their support of other survivors and those suffering from mental illness currently.

Last year, the Out of the Darkness Walk raised about $40,000 with 600 people participating. Weiler said this year’s event has already raised $20,000, and she is hoping it will meet last year’s amount.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530

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