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Walking out of the darkness

This year the lead singer of Soundgarden, Chris Cornell, and the lead singer of Linkin Park, Chester Benington, passed away due to suicide.
Submitted photo to The Union |

The Placer County Out of the Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk has become the largest walk in Northern California in just five years.

The premiere event brought to the area by The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention serves Placer, El Dorado and Nevada Counties in an ongoing positive effort to get the message of hope, help and healing delivered to every single area resident.

On Saturday, Oct. 7, with registration beginning at 8 a.m. at the Auburn Railhead Park, everyone is invited to come and share in the opportunity to stand united in raising awareness about mental health and walking to fight suicide.



The two-mile walk begins at 10 a.m.

“Anyone may experience a form of P.T.S. (Post-traumatic stress) which can be defined as an insidious debilitating situation, that knows no bounds,” said Mark Soto of The Honor Group, an event sponsor.




“It could happen from seeing a car accident, having a bad experience out and about in the community or even in certain professions.

“It can manifest itself in a wide myriad of symptoms from hyper vigilance, irritability, insomnia, self-medication, nightmares, survivor’s guilt, isolation, lack of feelings or even avoidance, just to mention a few.”

Recent history

This past Aug. 11 was the third anniversary since Robin Williams died, which resulted in worldwide attention to mental health. But a couple of years after his death, it quieted down.

Unfortunately, we recently lost lead singer Chris Cornell of the alternative rock band Soundgarden in May, followed by one of his best friends, Chester Bennington.

Bennington was the lead singer of Linkin Park and died of suicide on what would have been Cornell’s 53rd birthday.

The sensationalism of these pop culture stars has caused a slight ripple effect, glorifying the ideation of suicide. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and homicide is the 16th leading cause.

“In the 80s, there was a movie about a character getting the ‘C’ word,” shared Katie Bergstrom. “The movie was called ‘Terms of Endearment,’ and at the time of production and release, cancer was virtually unspoken of, a dirty secret that was not generally or openly talked about.

“Today, cancer is a topic that people can openly discuss. I think it would be the absolute ideal if all of us were committed to taking the social stigma out of suicide and if we could openly talk about it.

“Imagine the lives we could save as a society and the healing that could take place if it wasn’t such a taboo subject. Together, that reality is just around the corner and with this Placer County Out of the Darkness Walk, like each walk across the Nation — we can make a very public statement to every single person out there!

“You are loved, we want you to live and be a part of our lives — together, ‘we’ can face whatever is going on and come up with a solution. That, I believe, is the real goal — talking about hope, help and healing while saving lives, today, tomorrow and every day!”

National awareness

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and Soldier Suicide Prevention Month, and World Suicide Prevention Day is Sept. 10.

For the fifth year the most active VFW — Auxiliary, Post 2003 of Colfax, has continued their commitment to serve the surrounding communities by bringing light to the ongoing issues of mental health and suicide.

The Colfax VFW — Auxiliary has been an anchor sponsor of the event since its inception and wants to encourage everyone to be a part of the movement turning hope into action and creating a culture that’s smart about mental health.

“There are 27 states reporting on Soldier Suicides to the C.D.C.,” said Jeff Holt, 19, lifetime VFW Auxiliary member. “However, the numbers are greatly skewed. I would venture a personal guess that the numbers are substantially higher.

“There is absolutely no standardized reporting in place for those states reporting. Additionally, county coroners have different criteria for submitting death certificates and often times will change the findings based on requests from the families.

“Combine that information with local information on suicide statistics and we have a problem that is larger than anyone could have concluded.”

Jeff, who is a psychology major, went further to say that social ostracism (physical and psychological exclusion from social groups due to varied professions, sexual orientation, or other instances or circumstances) can be neurologically experienced in the same exact way that the human brain experiences physical pain.

The only difference is that the effects of social ostracism are longer lasting than the effects of physical pain, holding the brain in a constant state of unnecessary stress and suffering, leading to extreme depression and anxiety, which results in an increased risk of suicide.

In 2013, Placer County had over 180 suicides, or approximately one suicide every two days.

It isn’t just a soldier problem, and each suicide touches an average of 63 lives within the first three hours. Once a call is made on a suicide, first responders show at the site, fire personnel, ambulance, deputies, chaplains, coroner, family, friends and neighbors.

The death touches so many lives and leaves many behind wondering how they could have helped.

Warning signs

All the volunteers and sponsors want to share some of the warning signs of suicide which can include individuals:

Talking about a way to die.

Giving personal “special” items away.

Looking for a way to kill oneself.

Talking about feeling hopeless and having no purpose.

Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.

Talking about being a burden to others.

Increasing the use of alcohol and/or drugs.

Acting agitated, anxious or reckless.

Sleeping too much or too little.

Withdrawing or feeling isolated.

Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.

Displaying mood swings.

Action plan

It is also important to have an action plan or know what to do if someone you know is showing signs of suicide:

Do not leave the person alone.

Remove any firearms, alcohol or drugs, or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.

Take the person to the emergency room or seek the immediate help of a medical or mental health professional.

Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273- 8255, or text 741-741, which is a free, 24/7 service that can provide suicidal persons or those around them with support, information and local resources.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a non-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide.

Over 121 people die by suicide each day, so the foundation sponsors more than 350 walks across this nation.

There are local programs and events in all 50 states. Suicide claims more lives than natural disasters, murder and even war.

The foundation’s main objectives include funding scientific research, providing education to professionals, raising awareness and informing the public about mood disorders and suicide prevention, advocating for government legislation that promotes suicide prevention efforts and providing resources for families and individuals affected by suicide.

Source: The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.


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