ALBERT LEA, Minn. (KTTC) – National Suicide Prevention Week begins Sunday. As part of that effort to help those struggling, the Albert Lea Out of the Darkness Walk raised money and awareness for the cause.
“I’m speechless because I didn’t expect this big of a turnout so I’m very happy,” said Darcy Nielsen, chairperson for the walk.
Saturday morning’s event brought out 250 walkers to Trinity Lutheran Church and raised over $12,000 as of this morning. It was a chance for those who have been touched by suicide in their lives to connect and heal.
“Part of it is the isolation people feel. That I’m all alone and no one understands. Life is awful. And they don’t get to have that hope,” said Judy Popp-Anderson of Bonnerup Funeral Services grief care.
Before the walk began, a guest speaker shared her story. Laurie Squier attempted to take her own life when she was 16 and has struggled with depression and anxiety.
“You’re in so much pain you really think there is nothing else left to do.” Squier said. “I went to a one-on-one therapist but I also started talking, speaking out about my experiences. And that seemed like a therapy for me.”
She says that people do not share when they feel depressed because they are afraid of the stigma.
“You need to be supportive. You need to tell them you love them. You need to try to get them the help they need and the support they need,” said Squier.
The walkers made their way from Washington Avenue, through downtown Broadway, and all the way to New Denmark Park. Some in silence as they remembered their loved ones, others connecting with the people around them.
“There is something to say about healing in that moment for one day, just for a few hours.” said Squier. “Seeing them walk that walk together, you would not believe the conversations that come out through that walk.”
After the walk, people gathered for food and a raffle before a memorial service.
“It’s impacted Albert Lea a lot. So this shows you that we have the support and we’re going to come back next year bigger and better,” Nielsen said.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention advises that if you or someone you know is in a crisis, you should call 1-800-273-TALK.