AUSTIN, Minn. - Peopl who have lost loved ones to suicide, people who are suicide and depression survivors, and other community members who want to support the fight to prevent suicide gathered at First Congregational Church on Saturday for the 'Walk out of Darkness.'
One of the chairs of the event, Laurie Squier, is a lived experience survivor, and the walk is important to her to help other people going through what she went through. "If they reach out and ask for help, they can talk to somebody. They can get through those moments of darkness and they can live such a better life. I don't want them to from 16 to 40 like I did and live in those ups and downs," she says.
At the event, another chair Darcy Nielsen shared the story of Tommy Aldrich, her cousin she lost to suicide in 2016. "To know Tommy was a gift... If he was here today, he would be talking to all of you, giving you hugs, and saying 'you've got a new friend,'" she addressed the crowd.
The walk exceeded its goal of raising $5,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The money will go towards suicide prevention research, advocacy, and education.
But for Squier and Nielsen, the walk is about so much more than money. "Whether they're somebody who has lost somebody to suicide, or they're someone who has a lived experience who maybe has tried to take their life by suicide, or had those thoughts and to see those come together and to see them embrace each other... to talk about it freely and to know that there's no stigma here," explains Squier.
"I wanted to become an advocate for my cousin Tommy because I want to be his voice and I want to raise awareness for anybody that's out there that has the feelings of depression or that they feel no one loves them. They are loved," adds Nielsen.
This is the walk's fourth year, and there are plans to hold the walk in Albert Lea next year.