Saturday’s Walk to Silence the Stigma event in Jamestown was about not forgetting people who died by suicide, according to organizers.
“This year’s been really hard,” said Cyndy Rodacker, who said this is the 20th anniversary of her son’s suicide.
Seeing friends and community at the event was very touching, said Rodacker, who is secretary of the United to Silence the Stigma Committee. She said there is contact information for the Silence the Stigma Committee at area funeral homes to offer support to families of people who take their own life.
“So many times when you lose someone to suicide you feel like you’re the only one who is dealing with that and you need to know that you’re not,” said Monte Rodacker, president of the Silence the Stigma committee in Jamestown.
He said the walk is a way for people who lost someone to suicide to find support from others who have a shared a similar loss. The grief of suicide is unique, and the walk is also about working to change the stigma and guilt that survivors feel after someone’s suicidal death, he said.
There were 140 suicides in North Dakota in 2016, which is 19 suicides per 100,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The national average is 13 suicides per 100,000 people, according to Suicide Prevention Program of the North Dakota Department of Health.
Gayle Nelson, a retired Jamestown High School counselor, spoke about organizing Sources of Strength, a 20-year-old program to help vulnerable youth turn to healthy alternatives over substance abuse, bullying, violence or suicide. The program, founded by Mark LoMurray of Bismarck, is available in Jamestown Public School District after Silence the Stigma provided $4,500 funding in February in addition to supporting the North Dakota suicide hotline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
“We saw a need to fill a gap to have more local resources brought into the Jamestown area and we felt that we could stretch any dollars that we could raise a lot further by donating it directly,” said Tara Steinberger, vice president of Silence the Stigma committee.
Sources for Strength is now under the leadership of Sadie Lech, a high school special education instructor who was present with Danielle Schoeler, a school counselor who works with students at the middle school. The student-centered programs helps kids to identify and build strengths in one another so that no one feels alone during difficult times, Lech said.
The student-centered program now has Facebook and Instagram pages, she said.
Speaking to the group of around 50 people, Bernie Satrom said suicide has affected every generation of his family. His father dealt with depression and alcoholism before taking his life, he said.
“Sometimes we don’t know what people are dealing with,” Satrom said. “So, it’s OK to give them a little grace because you don’t know.”
Someone might become irritating on the road or in public, he said. Pause to think that this person might be in a delicate place and think about what you say or how you react, he said.
“Give them a little grace,” Satrom said.
Genesis McGregor, 20, said she was 11 years old when her cousin took his own life at age 16. She said she didn’t understand what had happened at the time but later started dealing with her own depression and anxiety issues.
“I consider myself a survivor,” McGregor said.
As a former Miss Hazen-Beulah, McGregor made suicide and mental health awareness her pageant platform and continues to work as a youth advocate.