Story by Mederios Babb, MTN News
BOZEMAN, Mont. – Gallatin County residents walked together around the Gallatin County Regional Park to spread awareness of Suicide Prevention and to comfort those who know someone who has lost their life to suicide.
“I think the only way that you combat something like this, is to be able to talk about it,” said one of the lead event organizers, Tracy Rassley.
This Out of the Darkness walk is part of the national campaign, hosted by the Montana Chapter, to support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s education and reduce the number of lives lost to suicide each year.
Bozeman’s event was one of more than 550 walks happening nationwide this year.
Sharon Stachlowski’s team, Smiling Moose/Sign Solutions, raised the most money for the fundraiser this year, bringing in close to $6,000. This event hits home for Stachlowski because about 43 years ago she lost her father to suicide.
“As a young kid, people would ask me how my father passed away and in all honesty I used to lie. And so getting involved in this event to me means getting people just simply aware that it is okay to talk about it,” said Stachlowski. “It’s nothing to be ashamed about, and if we can do anything it is, start recognizing symptoms in our fellow person that is around us. Our family, our friends, even complete strangers. If you see signs, I think it is time to step in and do what you can.”
According to the event’s press release, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Montana lost 273 lives to suicide last year, which is the most in the entire nation.
Rassley, whose son died by suicide in 2015, has been involved in the walk since the very beginning in 2016. She said this year she wanted people to be able to visualize the amount of loss the state has seen. That’s when the idea of Montana Tears bloomed.
Along with the help of others, she cut out 273 paper snowflakes and hung them from the ceiling of the gazebo where the walk started Saturday morning to represent all of the people who died due to suicide in 2017.
“What we really need to talk about today is that we need those numbers to start going down. We can’t have 40,000 or so in a year in the nation. We can’t have 273 in the state of Montana. We need to start seeing those number go down and I think that events like this are so very important to make that happen.”
Out of the Darkness is expected to bring together around 300,000 walkers around the nation and raise more than $21 million for suicide prevention. Bozeman’s walk last year raised more than $25,000 and had 387 participants.