Grace King, The Circuit
can’t utter a word
but we are survivors
and we can be heard
These lines were included in a poem by kp and posted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
The full poem was recited by Sydney Freeman, one of the speakers and co-captains, at the Out of the Darkness Walk.
Many of these walks occur around the United States and are put on by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
The first walk in Atchison took place at Jackson Park on Sept. 29.
The purpose of this walk is to spread awareness and celebrate the lives of those lost to this difficult battle.
Mother and daughter duo and co-captains Michele Rasmussen and Sydney Freeman put the walk together. They had assistance from many committee members, volunteers and sponsors.
Freeman and Rasmussen had decided last April they were going to bring the walk to Atchison.
“Atchison had lost two high school students in the spring and I knew of several other attempts and also other suicides years prior,” Rasmussen said. Rasmussen is also the Administrative assistant in the Education Department at Benedictine.
The event opened with Freeman’s speech, and in it, she praised all the attendees.
“Congratulations on becoming warriors in this fight to prevent suicide,” Freeman said.
Freeman spoke about how she and her mom had been attending these walks for the last five years.
Freeman began to share her family’s stories, including two loved ones lost to suicide, just a year apart.
“I began to dive into research of anything that would bring me comfort,” Freeman said. “Luckily, a couple weeks after losing [my cousin], mom found the Out of the Darkness Walk in Kansas City and we decided to go.
Freeman and Rasmussen didn’t know what to expect from the walk or even if it would help them.
“As we walked up to registration, I felt an overwhelming sense of belonging,” Freeman said. “I could tell that the people surrounding me understood exactly what I was feeling and going through.”
Freeman also spoke about the benefits the walks have had on her personally.
“These walks have helped catapult me to a place where I am able to tell their story not just of how they died but of who they were,” Freeman said.
Several Benedictine students attended and volunteered at the walk.
Cat Hutchens, senior and president of the Education club, referred to the Out of the Darkness walks as platforms to talk about mental illness. She continued by explaining that conversations regarding suicide are difficult to talk about and are often taboo in society.
“It’s kind of our club’s forefront — our goal is suicide prevention and awareness especially since we teach in the schools and the schools are having issues with this,” Hutchens said.
Assistant Principal of Atchison High School Lindsey Hansen also participated in the day’s events.
Because of the tragedy at the high school last year, students were eager to get involved.
Several members of the Ambassadors, a high school club sponsored by Hansen, attended the walk.
“That was something they wanted to do and we thought it was a great cause so we wanted to support that,” Hansen said.
Last year, the teachers in the Atchison High School started teaching the signs of suicide.
“The biggest part of that is tell somebody,” Hansen said. “If you see something that you’re concerned about in a friend or a relative, then you need to tell somebody.
Hutchens, Hansen and Rasmussen all wanted people to know that it’s okay to talk about suicide and these issues so they can be helped.
“I’ve seen what it does to not talk about it and it’s not a good thing,” Hansen said.
Rasmussen’s main focus was to open the door for conversation.
“I’ve already had several businesses contact me and ask what they can do to help next year,” Rasmussen said.
Freeman calls suicide ‘this darkness’ and explains how there is no age discrimination, referring to the loss of her cousin and grandpa.
“We must continue this fight as survivors for not only them, but for any and all who have lost this battle or are currently fighting this battle,” Freeman said.
Rasmussen said the clouds broke apart when walking back from the walk.
“The sun was shining and someone said, ‘look it’s the sun and it’s out of the darkness,’” Rasmussen said.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website, AFSP has been able to set a goal to reduce the annual suicide rate 20% by 2025 through walkers and donors.
There isn’t an official amount yet, but around $4000 was raised, excluding merchandise sales.
“With the Kansas chapter, all the money will stay in Kansas to help with projects for schools and for families that have lost someone to suicide,” Rasmussen said.
For more information:
If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.