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North Dakotans Come 'Out of the Darkness' to Speak about Suicide Prevention

Speaking to someone who is showing warning signs of committing suicide is one of the most important tools for preventing it. (Department of Defense/Wikimedia Commons)
Speaking to someone who is showing warning signs of committing suicide is one of the most important tools for preventing it. (Department of Defense/Wikimedia Commons)
September 5, 2017

BISMARCK, N.D. -- North Dakotans are coming out from the shadows to speak up about suicide and suicide prevention. The Bismarck/Mandan Out of the Darkness Community Walk on Friday will support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and its goal to reduce the suicide rate 20 percent by 2025.

Ashley Falk, field advocate with the North Dakota chapter of the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, said people with a mental disorder or who suffer from depression are at a higher risk, but one of the biggest factors leading to suicide among young people is bullying.

"I know that it's affecting our younger ages because a lot of times bullying and suicide go hand in hand,” Falk said. “And it's terrible, but it is affecting our youth.”

Falk said one of the most important tools for fighting suicide is speaking to someone who is showing warning signs.

In North Dakota, someone dies by suicide every 71 hours, and the suicide rate is higher than the national average. More than 17 people per 100,000 commit suicide compared with the national average of a little more than 13 per 100,000.

Falk said the goal of the walk is to help everybody see that recovery is possible. She said past walks have helped her feel better.

"I have found great healing at the walks,” she said. "It isn't a good thing to say, 'OK, we're all here for the same reason.' But at the same time it's good that we're all here for the same reason."

Falk compared the stigma of suicide to the stigma associated with breast cancer years ago, and said she hopes that events like walk help people to be more open about suicide and its causes.

"Mental health and suicide prevention is impacting America and North Dakota so much that we really need to start looking toward more efforts to bring down that stigma and to make everybody understand that it's OK to not feel OK,” Falk said.

For more on suicide prevention and to sign up for Friday's walk, visit AFSP.org. The walk begins at 5 p.m. It is one of many such events scheduled across the country through December.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND