The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Forrest Hershberger
Sidney Sun-Telegraph 

Suicide Awareness Event Sets Record


September 25, 2019

Legion Park was busy with walkers, artists, children chattering and adults talking within the cool shade of the trees near the Shelter House. Under the surface, many held that puts them in an unfortunate membership — survivor of a loved-one's death.

On Sept. 15, Sidney's Walk Out of Darkness suicide awareness event with 106 registered walkers. As of Sept. 17, the event raised $7,800, more than in 2018, according to event coordinator Liz Borgmann. The event had a fundraising goal of $3,000 and reached more than twice that, $6,696 according to the website. Funds raised by Walk Out of Darkness events supports the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). The AFSP's goal is to reduce the annual suicide rate by 20 percent by 2025.

“We will continue to honor those we have lost, with our memorial wall all year. The wall is currently residing in the Sidney Viaero store and will rotate to other local sponsors,” she said.

Borgmann said in addition to more participants, the 2019 Walk Out of Darkness also had more volunteers willing to assist in education programs and local support for suicide survivors.

In addition to the walk, the Sidney event included information booths, booths offering event t-shirts, colored-bead necklaces. The color of the beads identified how a person related to suicide: loss of a child, loss of a sibling, a personal struggle or attempt, loss of a spouse or partner, loss of a relative or friend, loss of a parent, loss of first responder or military, in support of someone who struggles or who has attempted suicide and in support of suicide prevention.

The AFSP lists suicide as the 10th leading cause of death in the US. The age-adjusted suicide rate in 2017 was 14 per 100,000 individuals with men dying by suicide about 3 ½ times more often than women. White males accounted for almost 70 percent of suicide deaths in 2017, according to the AFSP. The AFSP reports that the rate is highest for middle-age white men. There are an average of 129 suicides per day, with 50.57 percent of suicide deaths involving firearms.

Nebraska is ranked 34 in 2017. Four times as many died by suicide in 2017 in Nebraska than in alcohol related motor vehicle accidents, according to the AFSP. In 2019, one person dies by suicide every 32 hours. The AFSP says suicide is the ninth leading cause of death in Nebraska; second for ages 15 to 34, third for ages 35-44, fifth for ages 45-54, eighth for ages 55-65 and 18th for ages 65 and older. The state's per-100,000 rate is slightly higher than the national statistics; 14.70 for Nebraska and 14.00 nationally.

The AFSP says there is no single cause of suicide. Suicide occurs when stressors exceed current coping abilities of a person suffering from a mental health condition, according to the AFSP.

Students Reach Out From Personal Pain

The phrase “pay it forward” has often become cliché, something people say for a feel-good moment that requires little involvement. At the Walk Out of Darkness event in Sidney, several young people were paying forward, getting involved with people at a level that could get emotionally “dirty.” They know how difficult it can be to move forward after suicide becomes part of the vocabulary.

Sidney High School's Unified Raiders volunteered to help at the Walk Out of Darkness suicide awareness event Sept. 15. Several of them can tell of friends, family, even themselves who struggled with suicide. In some cases, the friend or family member lost their battle with the darkness.

Tucker Meyer said the community support for events like Walk Out of Darkness “is kind of unique,” but says more ought to be done. He took part in the Walk Out of Darkness in memory of his mom's best friend's son who committed suicide.

“It was a little personal,” he said.

He also went to support the program.

Dani Albus also participated for personal reasons. She recalls an older friend, an high school student when she was in second and third grade, who took her own life when Albus was in sixth grade.

“It hit me really hard,” she said.

She said supporting Walk Out of Darkness helps her as she is helping others.

“It just helps me to know I'm not alone,” she said.

Tiffany Barney can also tell a story of a family member. She said her aunt tried to overdose before Tiffany was born.

Desdamona Huaracha says she and her family have had struggles.

“I started thinking of suicide myself, which I've overcome,” she said.

Huaracha said she started talking to a guidance counselor and her mother. She also talked with her doctor about depression.

Trinity Baker said she got involved for personal and family reasons.

For others, the experience was educational. The emotions and triggers that result in a person committing suicide are not always quickly recognizable. For Vanessa Balandran, taking part in Walk Out of Darkness reminded her how many people struggle with unseen issues.

“It is eye-opening because you never see how many people are going through pain until you go to something like this,” she said.

The students were asked what are some of the triggers, the reasons, why young people consider suicide. Stress was high on the list. Also contributing are social media, being bullied and thinking friends don't like you.

“It hits really hard,” Balandran said of being bullied.


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