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Walk raises money for suicide prevention

Published: Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012 4:30 a.m. CDT
(Rob Winner – rwinner@shawmedia.com)
Sue and Roger Johnson of Genoa, take part in the DeKalb Out of the Darkness Community Walk event at Hopkins Park on Saturday morning. The couple lost their daughter to suicide in June. "It's hard being a parent not knowing that she was so troubled," Sue Johnson said. Proceeds of the event benefited the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Nothing could stop Jasmine Dockery from walking for DeKalb’s Out of the Darkness Walk. She suffers from multiple sclerosis, but Saturday, her focus was on suicide.

About 100 people participated in the 3-mile walk, twice as many people as last year, said April Jervis, Area Director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“I pushed myself and tried not to think about it,” said Dockery, who has been suffering from MS for three years. “I try to think about others. I’m here for all of them. I’m not thinking about myself.”

The walk, which started and ended in the Hopkins Park shelter, raised $4,538, just short of their $5,000 goal. All proceeds go toward treatment and research for preventing suicide. AFSP is accepting donations until Dec. 31.

A moment of silence was had to remember those who had committed suicide. For Matthew Jennings, the moment was personal.

Jennings’ daughter’s boyfriend committed suicide. He said the loss affected the entire family.

“I’m proud to see that [my daughter has] used her energies to participate in events like this,” Jennings said.

His daughter is a senior at Northern Illinois University.

“We’re here in support for her,” Jennings said. "To let her know her family’s not going to forget everything she’s been through.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. The AFSP says someone commits suicide in the country every 15 minutes.

Out of the Darkness volunteer Kristine Coffin said there are many places people can go for help. NIU’s Counseling and Development Center offers on-call counseling and are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

People can go to NIU’s Psychology Department or the Family Therapy Clinic in Wirtz Hall for therapy. They also can go to DeKalb’s Ben Gordon Center or the Alexian Brothers Hospital in Sycamore.

Coffin worked as an office manager for the CSDC. She had a childhood friend who committed suicide five years ago.

“Check in on your friends,” she said. “If they start shutting down, ask if they need help, or find help for them.”

Warning signs for suicide include threatening to hurt oneself, looking for ways to kill oneself (pills or weapons), talking about death or suicide, and making plans for a potentially serious attempt.

Often times, depression and suicide go hand-in-hand. More than 90 percent of people who commit suicide are suffering from one or more psychiatric disorder.

Laura Nash, AFSP Chairperson for the Community Outreach Illinois Board of Directors, lost her brother to suicide in 2005. He was severely depressed and an alcoholic. He left behind three children.

Speaking to the crowd of walkers shortly before the walk, Nash said her brother thought he was doing his family a favor by killing himself because he felt he was a burden.

“Nobody does us any favors by leaving us like that,” Nash said. “He didn’t understand how much people cared about him.”

Jervis said she has a theory that everyone has lost someone to suicide. Her goal in working for AFSP is to reduce the stigma of suicide and to encourage people to seek help from mental health professionals.

“If you don’t talk about it, people don’t realize how widespread the issue is,” she said. “A lot more people will identify the signs of a suicide in someone and get them help [if they are educated]. Then we’ll be able to reduce the number of people who die by suicide.”

If you or someone you know may be suffering from any mental health problem or suicidal thoughts, call 800-273-TALK (8255) or visit www.afsp.org to learn more about suicide prevention.

To donate to DeKalb’s Out of the Darkness Walk, visit www.afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.event&eventID=1898.

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