Walkers remember loved ones who died by suicide
At the same time, they hope to raise awareness to help prevent other deaths
October 18, 2019
Last Saturday morning marked the fourth time in five years that the Borske family — mom Samantha, daughters Dallas, Makayla and Alexis — and their friends and family made their way to Carlton for the annual Suicide Awareness Memorial Walk.
It’s a short walk, but a long journey for nearly everyone there. They come together each fall at Carlton High School in memory of loved ones who have died by suicide. Nearly 200 people participated in this year’s walk around downtown Carlton, which was cold and a little snowy.
“A lot of people have designated this date and event to have as remembrance of persons they loved, so they make it a priority no matter what the weather is like,” said Meghann Levitt, facilitator for the Carlton County Suicide Prevention Task Force, which organizes the annual walk. She said the primary purpose of the walk is remembrance.
But the short walk and the ceremonies and talks before and after mean many things to people.
“I think it gives a sense of support in a way, especially knowing you are surrounded by people going through a similar grief process,” Levitt said. “I know people have made connections on that walk, people that they may not have known were going through something similar, or connections to different groups.”
Inside the auditorium the morning of October 12, Levitt read off a list of 40 names, all of them loved ones who are gone now.
“Too many,” said Chad Maki, who walks each year in memory of late friends.
As of July 7 this year, Carlton County records counted 112 threats of suicide called in, 23 attempts and one completed. That doesn’t count anything that was only reported to the hospital, doctors or family and friends.
Before people headed out the door of the high school to go walk, Levitt and other volunteers reminded them that part of thinking of their loved one is remembering the good times, telling some fun stories. While many of the walkers were somber, people were laughing too.
It’s been nearly five years since Jeremy Borske killed himself in May of 2015. He left behind his wife and three daughters.
“It was hard,” Samantha said, noting that their daughters were ages 13, 15 and 16 when their dad died. “All of us did grief counseling for a little bit, but we still struggle. You never really get over it, what he did and why he did it. You just never get over that.”
The walk helps.
It’s oddly comforting, Samantha agreed, to know that other people are struggling too.
“It’s nice to be around people who know what you’re going through, really,” Samantha said. “Not everyone understands what it’s like.”
Samantha and Jeremy met when she was 19 and he was 18 years old. They were neighbors in Duluth and started dating. They married five months later and got pregnant with Dallas soon after.
“He was a funny guy, a really good guy,” Samantha said. “He just struggled.”
The struggles truly started after Jeremy had knee surgery and was prescribed Lortab as a painkiller. He became addicted to pain pills, she said.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 90 percent of people who die by suicide have a mental disorder at the time of their deaths. There are treatments — biological and psychological — that can help address the underlying health issues that put people at risk for suicide.
Jeremy tried to kill himself in 2012 but Samantha found him in time and called the police, who helped revive him.
Before that, Samantha had no idea Jeremy was suicidal.
For a time after he got out of the hospital, things got better. He got clean, and went back to work. Then he got hooked again and started spiraling down.
He would tell her and the girls, she said, that he just didn’t want to live anymore.
“Sometimes he loved life and sometimes he hated it,” she said.
Jeremy died by suicide in May of 2015. He was 36.
This time of year is especially hard, Samantha said, because of all the holidays, plus birthdays and their anniversary. Jeremy would have been 41 in December.
“I wish he could have seen the girls grow up and graduate and see his first grandchild,” she said. “He would have loved that. I just wish people would think harder first. You [the survivor] have this guilt; it messes up your family.”
She said she cried a lot the first year of the walk.
“It’s a hard day,” Samantha said, as she and the girls, their friends and even Dallas’ German Shepherd puppy walked, each one wearing a T-shirt with Jeremy’s name across the front. “You realize how many people struggled and ended their life. But it’s also nice to honor and remember all those people.”
Levitt said next year’s walk is already set for Saturday, Oct. 10.
Borske said she plans to be there with her girls, and anyone else who wants to join them.
• Talking about wanting to die
• Looking for a way to kill oneself
• Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
• Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
• Talking about being a burden to others
• Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
• Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
• Sleeping too little or too much
• Withdrawing or feeling isolated
• Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
• Displaying extreme mood swings
The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. Warning signs are associated with suicide but may not be what causes a suicide.
WHAT TO DO
If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide:
• Do not leave the person alone
• Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt
• Call the following:
Local Mobile Crisis at 218-623-1800
Crisis Text Line: Text MN to 741741
U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255)
• Take the person to the emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional