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Suicide walk promotes connections and resources

How does a friend, a loved one, a co-worker or a classmate cope in the aftermath of a completed suicide?

Jo Angell says that going on a walk — specifically, the annual Suicide Awareness Memorial Walk — has helped her and many other people who have been left behind. Her son, Doug Angell, died by suicide.

Carlton County health educator Meghann Leavitt helps organize the annual event which serves as a time to remember, but also offers resources to survivors and, maybe most importantly, a chance to connect. Leavitt said Carlton County and many other counties in northern Minnesota have some of the highest rates of suicide in the state.

“This event allows family and friends who have been impacted by suicide to remember those they have lost, as well as connect with others who have had a similar experience,” Leavitt said.

This year’s walk is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 12, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., starting and ending at Carlton High School (405 School Ave. in Carlton). The walk is free; it is not a fundraiser, said Angell. All are welcome to participate.

Participants will have the opportunity to tie a ribbon to the banner that will be carried on the walk in memory of those they are honoring, and are also invited to wear something with names and/or pictures of those they are honoring.

Information on suicide awareness and education will be available.

The first walk 11 years ago had 75 walkers, Angell said. Now they average between 200-300 people. Participants typically include people from the local area, as well as some from neighboring counties and around the state; they are family members, friends, human service and mental health workers, co-workers, and many others whose lives have been affected by a loved one’s suicide or attempt.

The noncompetitive walk is short, approximately 20 minutes. It will be followed by refreshments and a short message of hope from Sandy Raisanen and Annette Mills (sisters who are suicide survivors of their brother’s death). Local Mobile Crisis and NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) will also share community resources.

“This walk has been an important focus and connection for me,” Angell said. “It has been very helpful to have a special day where people come together, supporting each other and walking in remembrance of our loved ones, publicly stating the seriousness of suicide. We’re all there for the same reason.”

The Suicide Awareness Memorial Walk is organized by members of the Carlton County Suicide Prevention Task Force, including Levitt and Angell. The Task Force, consisting of community members as well as professionals, meets quarterly to plan further outreach for suicide prevention, awareness, and education in Carlton County.


If you go

The 11th annual Suicide Awareness Memorial Walk is set for 9:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 12, starting and ending at Carlton High School (405 School Ave., Carlton). The event is free and registration is not required.