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'Out of the Darkness'

Community awareness shines light on suicide

Posted: May 16, 2013 - 8:45pm  |  Updated: May 19, 2013 - 5:52pm
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Melany Derit, of Sterling, stands in front of a Hospice of the Central Peninsula table at Saturday's Out of the Darknes Walk in the Soldotna Sports Center. The community should not turn their back on suicide, she said, but it is "hush, hush - they don't want to talk about it." The purple beads represent a lost relative or friend; white, a lost child; and green, someone who struggled personally. Derit lost her brother in 1998. Hospice volunteers Brenda Randall, left, and Janet Bourne sit at the table.
Melany Derit, of Sterling, stands in front of a Hospice of the Central Peninsula table at Saturday's Out of the Darknes Walk in the Soldotna Sports Center. The community should not turn their back on suicide, she said, but it is "hush, hush - they don't want to talk about it." The purple beads represent a lost relative or friend; white, a lost child; and green, someone who struggled personally. Derit lost her brother in 1998. Hospice volunteers Brenda Randall, left, and Janet Bourne sit at the table.

Cindy Littell worries that in time her grandchild will not remember his mother, only the one act that tore her from his life.

“It was the last thing I expected,” Littell said.

Tuesday rolls forward another year from the date, May 14, 2011, when her 37-year-old daughter pulled her partner’s handgun from under his truck’s seat and fatally shot herself through the chest.

Littell, of Soldotna, stood by a table in the Soldotna Sports Center after the rest of the room had left for Saturday’s Out of the Darkness Walk, a fundraiser for suicide prevention and awareness.

At the time of her daughter’s death, both her sons had moved away. But Jake, her daughter’s oldest, was only 9 or 10 years old when he left almost a decade before, Littell said. Her daughter’s other son has more recent memories, she said.

Now all Jake has left to remember his mother by, Littell said, is five, maybe six, shoeboxes of photos.

“There may come a time when he closes his eyes and just can’t remember, and that hurts me,” Littell said, the rims of her eyes reddening.

The event raised more than $3,000 and 83 people arrived to walk, said Darnell Crosby-Schneider, the event organizer and a volunteer for Hospice of the Central Peninsula.

Crosby-Schneider said the community sweeps suicide, depression and bipolar disorder — which Littell’s daughter had — under the rug. She lost both her sister and brother to suicide. She said the community does not connect depression or bipolar disorders with suicide.

In the past year, one in four Alaskan teens experienced depression, according to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. In 2011, one in 10 students had made plans to kill themselves, according to the same survey.

From 1994 and 2007 in Alaska, the rate of suicide between ages 15 to 19 averaged nearly five times the nation-wide range for the same age group, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Service’s Division of Public Health.

In 2010, more that two times as many people committed suicide than were killed by homicide in the U.S., according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

For for fiscal year 2014, the state legislature allocated $3,468,300 in rural services and suicide prevention and $601,900 in suicide prevention council. It allocated $3,480,300 and $588,900 respectively in FY 2013.

“I hope if I can get awareness out to the community, I can help just one person find help if they are struggling with depression or considering suicide,” Crosby-Schneider said.

Kim Steik, Ninilchik resident and friend of Crosby-Schneider, said that is the key — awareness.

It helps, she said, if those struggling have someone to call and talk with.

But the question is why, she said. “What makes a person feel like they can’t go on in the world? It’s a deep, deep subject.”

Littell said she still doesn’t know what caused her daughter to take her own life.

Her daughter had begun drinking, sometimes for weeks on end, but Littell didn’t think it was a sign, she said.

Her daughter was a straight-A student too, and, though her first two husbands were losers, her daughter’s recent partner had been a winner, Littell said.

“It was the last thing I expected,” she said. “I don’t know what went wrong.”

To other families who may have children, siblings, spouses or grandparents who are depressed, bipolar or showing any signs of suicide, Littell said, “Pay attention.”

“Cherish the time you have with them,” she said.

A national talkline phone number for those who need someone to speak to: 1-800-273-8255.

 

Dan Schwartz can be reached at daniel.schwartz@peninsulaclarion.com.

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