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Annual memorial walk brings attention to suicide

The 15th Suicide Awareness Memorial Walk takes place 9:30 -11:30 a.m. Saturday at Carlton High School. An average of 150 community members gather at the event in memory of loved ones lost to, or touched by, suicide and to bring awareness toward prevention.

There will be a short walk of about 20 minutes followed by refreshments and a short message of hope from Jake Kachinski and Brittany Steeg, who lost their sister to suicide in 2010.

Meghann Levitt, an educator for Carlton County Health and Human Services, says the walk is important for the community.

"We are aware that Carlton County, and many other counties in northern Minnesota have some of the highest rates of suicide in the state," she said. "This event allows family and friends who have been impacted by suicide to remember loved ones lost, as well as connect with others who have had a similar experience," she said. "It is also important for us to provide resources for attendees to pass along to others they know who might be struggling."

Jo Angell, a mother who lost her son to suicide and who has been involved with the local Carlton County Suicide Prevention Task Force since its inception, said the annual walk is a crucial part of awareness.

"This walk has been an important focus and connection for me," she 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 walk will begin and end at Carlton High School. Participants may want to wear something with the name or picture of the person they are honoring. Walkers will have the opportunity to tie a ribbon to the banner that will be carried on the walk in memory of the person they are honoring.

Information on suicide awareness and education will be available. Anyone is welcome, and 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 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 outreach for suicide prevention, awareness and education in Carlton County.

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