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Walking to remember loved ones

Walking to remember loved ones

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Walking to remember loved ones

Participants of the Suicide Prevention Community Walk memorialize their loved ones with shirts like the large group pictured in memory of Zach Walton who passed away on Dec. 22, 2014.

Next week, September 5 through 11 is National Suicide Prevention Week. So many of us, too many, are bonded forever by the common grief that we share after losing a loved one to suicide. A group of us all get together once a year to walk in memory of those that we lost.

Colorful beads are worn to coordinate with the loss of a child, friend, family member, spouse, or like myself, nephew. Some of the walkers wear shirts to celebrate and memorialize their loved ones. Tears are often shed but overall the experience is a bitter sweet way to keep their memories alive. The most important reason that we gather however is to share the awareness and encourage others to talk openly about suicide.

The 12th Annual Alliance Suicide Prevention Community Walk will be held on Saturday, September 11 starting at 8 a.m. at the Alliance PAC Commons Area. The walk will traverse the beautiful trail around Laing Lake, down to Central Park. There’s no charge to participate in the event but pre-registration is encouraged and can be done by visiting https://tinyurl.com/5c5r8tph. Registration on the day of the event will be available from 7:30 to 8 a.m. on the morning of the walk.

T-shirts are available for $15 and can be ordered at https://alliance-suicide-prevention-walk.itemorder.com/sale or by calling Shelmadine Print Shop 308-761-3230. The deadline to order is Monday, September 6.

All funds donated to the Alliance Suicide Prevention Community Walk will go towards holding the annual walk as well as supporting evidence-based, suicide prevention programs in Alliance and throughout the Panhandle including Question. Persuade. Refer. (QPR) and Hope Squad. These efforts are coordinated by Panhandle Public Health District.

Sponsors for the walk include Alliance Chamber, Alliance Community Pharmacy, Alliance Public Schools, Alliance Tractor, Bank of the West, Carnegie Arts, City of Alliance, Grocery Kart, Keep Alliance Beautiful, Farmers State Bank, Great Western Bank, Panhandle Public Health District, Pepsi, Ron’s S&T, Snow-Redfern Foundation, Team Auto, and The Hemingford Ledger.

If you are interested in donating to help save a life and support the evidence-based, suicide prevention programs in the panhandle, you may contact Janelle Visser at 308-760-6493.

“Panhandle Public Health District is working together to improve the health, safety, and quality of life for all who live, learn, work and play in the Panhandle,” said Visser. “Our vision is that we are a healthier and safer Panhandle community.”

All proceeds from the 3rd Annual Tylore James Memorial Poker Run will be donated to the Panhandle Public Health District Suicide Prevention Program also. The run will be held this Saturday, September 5 starting at the Gordon American Legion from 9 to 10 a.m. However, riders can register anywhere along the route with the 1st stop taking place in Alliance at the VFW Club at approximately 11:30 a.m. and the 2nd stop at the Eagles Club in Hyannis at approximately 2 p.m. The 3rd stop will be at the Sand Café in Merriman around 3:30 p.m. The run will end at the 4th and final stop at the Gordon American Legion around 4:30 p.m. where the cards will be drawn. Riders are welcome to eat and socialize. Food is provided with the cost of the run.

The ride is sponsored by Western Sandhills American Legion Riders of Gordon and Hay Springs and the Panhandle Chapter 43 American Legion Riders of Alliance and Hemingford. Cash donations for suicide prevention will be accepted at all four stops. For more information contact Mitch Gallent at 308-360-2377 or Casey Walton at 308-207-5709.

The ride is open to all motocycles, cars, pickups, riding lawn mowers, golf carts, scooters, boots, tennis shoes… whatever you want to travel in and however you can participate. 

According to the CDC, suicide rates increased 33% between 1999 and 2019, with a small decline in 2019. Currently, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. It was responsible for more than 47,500 deaths in 2019, which is about one death every 11 minutes. The number of people who think about or attempt suicide is even higher. In 2019, 12 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.5 million planned a suicide attempt, and 1.4 million attempted suicide.

Suicide is something that affects all ages. It is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-34, the fourth leading cause among people ages 35-44, and the fifth leading cause among people ages 45-54.

Last year the number of U.S. suicides fell nearly 6% last year amid the coronavirus pandemic — the largest annual decline in at least four decades, according to preliminary government data.

Death certificates are still coming in and the count could rise. But officials expect a substantial decline will endure, despite worries that COVID-19 could lead to more suicides.

It is hard to say exactly why suicide deaths dropped so much, but one factor may be a phenomenon seen in the early stages of wars and national disasters, some experts suggested.

The COVID pandemic has been exceptionally hard for people’s mental well-being including stress, anxiety, depression, and substance misuse. Suicide is a topic that must be brought out of the darkness to save lives.

“Many individuals and workplaces can feel unprepared to help employees who are struggling with suicidal thoughts or to assist others following the death of a coworker by suicide. Thankfully, employers can play a powerful role in preventing suicide and responding appropriately when tragedies occur,” said Nicole Berosek, MS, Organizational Wellness Coordinator with the Panhandle Public Health District.

“If in doubt, reach out. It is so important; it might just save a life!” said Berosek.

To learn more about the Panhandle Public Health District’s (PPHD) suicide prevention efforts, join their monthly Panhandle Worksite Wellness Council (PWWC) wellness chat on September 9 at 2 p.m. Dr. Anita Chandra will discuss mental health and disease planning for employees and/or employers. If you are interested in joining this wellness chat, please contact Nicole Berosek at nberosek@pphd.org or register here: https://tinyurl.com/4hf9exzd.

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