Suicide and mental illness are not topics often discussed in polite conversation.
They come with a stigma attached that borders on the taboo, as if talking about it could somehow afflict one with illness. But the problem will not cease to exist if it is ignored. The rise in nation-wide mental health issues proves that this is not the case.
Locally, suicide and mental illness are issues as well. Many Greensburg residents know at least one person that suffers from some form of depression, or possibly are affected by it themselves. Given the right conditions, a simple case of depression can escalate into something far more dangerous. Some Decatur County residents have had their lives touched by suicide in one form or another, whether by attempting to take their own lives, or surviving to miss someone who succeeded. Depression is a sneaking illness and those that suffer from it don’t usually realize quite how bad it is until its too late.
Kimmie Maxwell - and others like her - are hoping to change much of that.
Maxwell is part of a group of Greensburg residents who seek to bring mental illness and depression and their links to suicide out of the darkness and into the light.
On May 18, from noon to 2 p.m., the Greensburg High School track will host the second annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk. The event seeks to raise awareness of mental health and suicide issues, as well as providing resources to those in need and raising money for prevention and education. Set up and registration will take place from 11 a.m. to noon.
The event is mainly comprised of teams where each person is asked to raise $100. The 16 teams will walk three to five miles to help raise awareness of the growing mental health problem in, around and beyond the Decatur County community.
There will be a multitude of resources available for those suffering from mental health issues, as well as information for those wishing to help others who are currently suffering.
Each team will have a tent or booth set up, most featuring pictures and information about the person for whom the team is walking, whether it be in honor of someone still fighting mental illness, or someone who lost the battle. In addition, many teams are expected to have drinks and light food for sale, with proceeds going to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) to aid in awareness. There may also be teams who will offer face painting or other games for a small fee, as well as raffles for prizes.
Many residents remember the tragic suicide of Greensburg Police Lieutenant Larry Dance in January. His family is now very active with raising awareness and prevention of suicide and mental health problems.
Dance’s mother, Margaret Dance, has done a lot of work to bring the issue of mental health to attention so that other families won’t have to suffer a similar loss. The Dance family team, Dance197, is very involved with the Out of the Darkness event and will be present on Saturday to walk in Dance’s memory. Greensburg Police Department, Greensburg Fire Department, and EMT members will be at the event as well, as schedules permit. In addition, Margaret Dance has paper life preservers for sale for one dollar at several businesses throughout Greensburg, very much like Riley Hospital’s hot air balloons or St. Jude’s Hospital’s pumpkins. All proceeds go to the AFSP to aid with awareness and prevention. The AFSP has six main goals in relation to suicide: research, education, prevention, awareness, legislation, and support.
One of the organizers for the Out of the Darkness Community Walk, Kimmie Maxwell, said people don’t realize that suicide and depression are no different from cancer: They eat you from the inside out.
Maxwell seeks to bring the issue to the attention of Decatur County residents, hoping to remove some of the stigma attached to the topics.
There will be a number of speakers at the event, each offering a unique perspective on the topic of suicide and mental illness. Leslie Asche-Thackery will offer a short welcome to participants just before noon when Janet Hodson will take over and open the event with a prayer before speaking.
At 12:30 p.m., Kimmie Maxwell will speak about her own struggle as a survivor left behind after a loved one committed suicide and the reasons she felt the need to start the Out of the Darkness walk here in Greensburg.
GPD Lieutenant Brendan Bridges will speak at 12:45 p.m. about what it is like to be a first responder to suicide calls and his personal reaction to being a first responder to the death of his superior officer, Larry Dance. Bridges will also offer a message of hope to those struggling with mental health and those that support loved ones with mental health issues.
Andy Kinker will speak at 1 p.m. on the difficulties of helping someone with suicidal tendencies stay out of harm. The daily struggle places a massive weight on the shoulders of anyone attempting to keep a family together through mental health issues. Kinker’s words may offer comfort to someone going through the same situation.
North Decatur High School guidance counselor Barb Lecher will speak at 1:15 p.m. regarding the aftermath that students with parents who have committed suicide must deal with, as well as the dangers of suicidal and self-harming thoughts to students and what resources parents and family can use to recognize signs and get help.
At 1:30 p.m., Diane McKinney, a spokesperson from Decatur County Memorial Hospital, will speak on the hospital perspective of suicide and how to help people cope with loss and the aftermath of suicide for survivors. In addition, McKinney will inform those present where to go if they or a loved one begins showing suicidal tendencies in the hopes that prevention will be possible.
Carol Burr, of New Directions, will speak at 1:45 p.m. on the unique group of individuals who become suicidal after suffering abuse. The abuser and abusee go through special circumstances that lead them to the point of suicide and Burr seeks to address these issues before they become life and death problems. New Directions is a safe house for those who have been abused.
Desi Shaw, granddaughter of Jack Fletcher, a noted Greensburg resident who committed suicide in his 80s, will speak at 2 p.m. with a message of hope. Her team, Fletcher’s Fighters, walk in honor of Jack Fletcher. She will lead the event into the balloon release, which is being made possible by donations from Buy-Rite Auto and Acra Automotive.
Kimmie Maxwell believes that there is a local need for suicide prevention resources. A suicide prevention hot line she is in contact with receives a large number of calls from Decatur County. Maxwell is in the process of organizing a support group for survivors and those still suffering with the aid of Leslie Asche-Thackery and Melony Maxwell. Anyone interested in assisting with the support group should contact Kimmie Maxwell at 812-593-9526.
Maxwell said that depression doesn’t mean you are crazy, it just means you need help. Suicide and self harm are not the way to release the pain and tension, and there are definitely people who care and want to help. It shouldn’t take a loss for people to realize that this is a nation wide issue that needs to be addressed, Maxwell said.
The organizers of the Out of the Darkness Community Walk urge anyone with suicidal thoughts to call the crisis hot line at 800-273-8255. For more information about the AFSP or to learn more about warning signs and prevention, call 888-333-2377 or visit www.afsp.org.
Contact: Amanda Browning 812-663-3111 x7004