Luverne hosts Out of the Darkness community walk for mental health, suicide prevention
“We need to make sure people know that if you come to a suicide prevention walk, it’s not because you’re suicidal. It’s also a place to show your neighbor that you care about their suffering.”
LUVERNE — The COVID-19 pandemic dealt a heavy blow to mental health in many ways, but the people of Rock County will unite again for their second Out of the Darkness community walk supporting mental health and suicide prevention efforts Saturday in Luverne’s city park.
“I don’t think there was any one specific community loss,” said Angela Nolz, chair of Luverne’s walk and an integrated health therapist with Sanford Luverne. “It’s the culmination of… seeing more mental health concerns.”
The event grew out of an effort by a group called Luv1LuvAll to examine community needs, she explained. One of the needs identified was brain health, a term the group deliberately chose rather than “mental health” in an effort to remove some of the stigma around it.
They started looking at ways to bring awareness to mental health in their own community, and found the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which runs more than 400 walks in many communities in the U.S.
“We didn’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Nolz said. “... you could see a group of people walk, and see that people care about these things.”
People can join the walk because they struggle with mental health or because one of their close friends or family members do, but they can also participate simply to show support for mental health care and anyone who struggles.
“We need to make sure people know that if you come to a suicide prevention walk, it’s not because you’re suicidal,” Nolz said. “It’s also a place to show your neighbor that you care about their suffering.”
The agenda is simple. Registration starts at 8 a.m. At 9 a.m., Luverne Mayor Pat Baustian will give an opening address. After that, attendees can participate in a bead ceremony. People who have struggled with depression or lost someone to suicide have written briefly about their experiences, and their words will be read aloud. Beads of various colors symbolizing types of loss that people have endured will be available, and every story might mean a new bead to add to an attendee’s necklace. At the end of the ceremony, everyone puts on their necklaces and begins to walk.
“It’s literally just laps around the park. For each lap you do, you’ll put in a ticket for an opportunity to win a wellness basket,” Nolz said. “We’ll have three of those.”
Local mental health providers will also have booths at the event, so anyone with questions or hoping to meet potential therapists will have the opportunity to do so. Food will be available at the event as well.
People can preregister at https://supporting.afsp.org/event/Luverne or register the day of the walk. No registration fee is required in order to participate, but those who raise $150 for the event do get a T-shirt.
Money raised goes toward free community education about mental health and suicide prevention. Last year, local classes weren’t very well-attended, said Nolz, who hopes to get more people interested in the classes as well in the future.
“People come together to walk and show support for suicide prevention, and love on those who have had struggles or lost loved ones,” Nolz said. “We come and we walk for our neighbors, we walk for ourselves, we walk for people who’ve lost their loved ones.”
She believes people have gotten a little more comfortable dealing with mental health issues in a community setting, but that it can still be difficult for people to rally around the subject of suicide.
“If you yourself have struggled, if you’ve lost somebody, if you care about community mental health, if you want to come get some steps in, if you want to come and have something to eat — everybody” should come to the walk, Nolz said.
Kids and pets are invited too, as there’s plenty of play equipment in the park and lots for children to do.
Anyone with questions may email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Help is available for those who are struggling. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a hotline for individuals in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. To speak with a certified listener, dial or text 988.