Walking out of the darkness

Currie walk raises awareness for suicide prevention

Photo by Deb Gau Julie Hanson, Maya King and Bryanna Hanson carried a banner during the Out of the Darkness Walk Saturday honoring Nicholas Hanson, who died in 2011. Julie Hanson is Nicholas’ mother; King, his niece; and Bryanna Hanson, his sister.

CURRIE — Some were wearing matching team shirts. Some carried flags, posters or banners. But it was the colorful bead necklaces that really gave a clue as to why people were gathering at End-O-Line Park.

Each person signing in for the Out of the Darkness Walk Saturday morning was encouraged to put on color-coded strings of beads. Each color represented a loved one who died by suicide: a spouse, a child, a family member, a friend, a veteran. Then there were the blue beads, which stood for people supporting suicide prevention. Just about everyone was wearing a blue necklace, in addition to other colors.

“This is what Out of Darkness is about, bringing hope,” said Susan Sik, in opening remarks before the walk. Walkers said they were celebrating the lives of friends and family, and working to fight the stigma of mental illness and suicide, so more people will reach out for help.

“It’s not a tabloid subject. We can discuss it,” said keynote speaker Shari Solma of Slayton.

Saturday’s Out of the Darkness Walk was the third annual walk held in Currie. The event raises funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, for research, education and prevention of suicides. More than 120 people took part in the Currie walk this year.

Suicide and mental illness are serious health concerns, Sik said. More than 44,000 people in the U.S. died by suicide in 2015.

In her keynote address, Solma talked about her own experiences with depression and encouraged people to reach out to others who are struggling. There is help for people dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts, Solma said. She said working with a counselor made a difference for her.

“One of the best things she told me is I don’t have to carry that burden by myself,” Solma said.

The chance to show support for people whose lives were affected by suicide was a big reason to take part in the walk, said Koreen Ziemke and Janet (Ziemke) Hill.

“It’s nice to know you’re not the only one,” Hill said. She and Ziemke were walking Saturday in honor of their brother, who died by suicide.

Ziemke said she hears from people who are glad the Currie walk is going on.

“It’s the encouragement to keep going” with organizing and participating in the walks, she said.

As walk participants headed out from End O Line to the walk route on the Casey Jones Trail, some carried posters or banners in memory of a friend or family member. Marissa Olson said she was walking to honor her father.

“I think the big thing is just to spread awareness” about the walk, and to remember the people you love, Olson said.