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Walk to raise awareness of suicide set for next week

Supporting fundraisers start this week


September 4, 2018

Havre Daily News/File photo

People brave the rain to participate in Havre's third annual Suicide Awareness Walk in 2017. The 2018 walk is scheduled for Sept. 13.

The Fourth Annual Suicide Awareness Walk is being held to increase awareness of mental health issues and decrease barriers for getting help on mental health issues in the area, said Suicide Walk Committee Chair Amber Spring.

The theme this year, Spring said, will be #bethe1to.

"Be the one to reach out," she said. "Be the one to ask if people are suicidal. Be the one to know the warning signs. Be the one to ask for help."

The Suicide Awareness Walk will start Thursday, Sept. 13, at the Montana State University-Northern clock tower behind Cowan Hall, with pre-event activities starting at 6:30 p.m. Speakers will start at 7 p.m. and will be directly followed by a 1-mile walk around campus, circling back to the clock tower.

Spring said one reason for the Suicide Awareness Walk is to increase awareness about people struggling with depression and suicide within the county and to reduce the stigma about suicide. Another is trying to encourage people not to be scared to ask if people are suicidal and to spread awareness of warning signs showing if someone is suicidal, she added.

The walk is organized by a committee of eight people, who are either professionally or personally affected by suicide, appointed by the Hill County Mental Health Local Advisory Council. The committee begins planning the event at the beginning of summer.

The walk will also be promoting the Local Advisory Council-sponsored mental health first-aid and its youth mental health first-aid courses.

Spring said the event will have involvement from Havre High School Key Club, a high school service organization connected to Kiwanis. The club has assisted with the walk for several years as a service initiative. She added that the club has also worked at the high school to increase awareness around suicide.

The walk gives people who have been affected by suicide the opportunity to speak about that experience, Spring said, and for others to share in that with them and begin healing.

"People in the community that are interested in sharing their stories to have that opportunity, too," she said.

She added that the event will be free, with T-shirts free to all those who participate. Spring said she would also like to expand the event in the future, to have some suicide awareness and prevention throughout the entire year.

Spring said all donations received after the walk will go toward contributing to future events.

Community sponsorships have increased, she added, with many local businesses sponsoring the event.

Spring said new to this year's walk is "Pints for Prevention," events in which every drink at participating local breweries and the distillery will be donated to the cause.

This week, from 4 to 8 p.m. Crawford Distillery will be participating in "Pints for Prevention" Wednesday and Triple Dog Brewing Co. will participate Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m.

Also Thursday, Taco John's will also be doing "Crunch for the Cause" with 50 percent of every order will going to the cause when the customer mentions suicide awareness from 5 to 7 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 11, Old Station Brewing Co. will be participating in "Pints for Prevention" from 4 to 8 p.m. with Bergren Transmission and Auto matching the donations collected.

The day of the walk, Sept. 13, Pizza Hut will also offer, all day, a donation of 20 percent of the cost of every order, dine-in or carry out, to the cause when the customer mentions suicide awareness.

Spring said one of the reasons for having this event is to offer a resource that can help raise awareness within the community, the state and the nation.

She added that the Suicide Hotline now has a texting feature, so people in crisis can text 741-741 and receive support through texts.

"In the state of Montana, we continue to be in the top three states in the United States with the highest rates of suicide, and we also know that we are affected by a lot of other risk factors," Spring said. "For instance, we are rurally located, have a lack of mental health providers for some people on the Hi-Line. We also have a difficulty accessing mental health services."

She added that this is important because this part of the state has an even higher rate of suicide than the state average.

"What we know is that the more that we can increase awareness of services and give training to the layperson about how to ask about suicide, (the) more that we can reduce the stigma and encourage people to ask for help," Spring said.


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