Alive and Running: Join event in fight against suicide

By: Tehya Tournier

One death occurs every 13 minutes because of suicide.  That means 38,000 Americans die of suicide each year, and the numbers are increasing by the minute.  Alive and Running Suicide Prevention is one of many organizations that strives to bring awareness about suicide.  I’m going to run the race.

“It started at the kitchen table. Our friend committed suicide when we were 15. We were sitting at our house one night having a conversation about it and said we should start something.  Like let’s do something to help this out rather than just sitting back idle, so we started a 5K, thought 100 people would show up and 400 showed up the first year,” co-founder of Alive and Running, Troy Belmer said.

The 5K and lantern lift off started in 2010, so this upcoming year will be the 6th event.  The two days have included more faces each year, and over 1,000 people registered in 2015. Belmer and his co-founder Ryan Nesbit have made an impact on thousands of lives. Their main goal was to provide awareness of suicide, and by the numbers of people who have registered, they are clearly succeeding.

My experience with Alive and Running has been nothing but amazing. It is able to show through the lantern lift off and 5K that so many people go through the same things. Those two events illustrate warmth and community, and it lets people know they aren’t alone.

Throughout the past 15 years of my life, people close to my family have gone through these heartbreaking events, and family friends close to me have taken their own lives or are living with depression.

I never really understood the concept until one night we got a call that my father’s coworker, who was also a close family friend, had taken her own life. Yes, I was little and I didn’t fully grasp what was going on at first, but I knew something bad had happened. Other people close to me had gone through similar stories, and all you can do is be there for them.

It’s hard to imagine what is going through someone’s head who is living with those thoughts, but we can’t get inside their heads. We can’t feel the pain of those whom we have lost, and they ultimately can’t see anyway out but wanting to escape.

You have no idea what someone is going through, what battles they are marching, what kinds of things are swirling around inside of them.  Most people who have committed suicide, attempted or suffer from depression don’t talk about it to anyone.

Depression is a feeling that worms it’s way to your brain. It is an illness that involves both body and mind, and it doesn’t just pass by. It keeps coming back. Depression is not a sign of personal weakness. After all, if you’re suffering from depression and are still standing, two claps for you. Most people in this state of mind feel like they are a burden to others, they don’t become involved and feel a sense of hopelessness.

I’ve seen people struggling, and I have heard people’s stories. Those men and women, teenagers and children are not weak nor apathetic.

“First of all, it’s not cowardly. I guess I would pin that back on the fact that it’s an internal thing and they don’t know the pain that the person is in. I think when people look at suicide, it’s cowardly or a weak way out, or someone isn’t mentally strong, but they don’t know what the person is battling. They have no idea what is going on in their heads. You can’t get inside of them and know how it feels either,” Belmer said.

Alive and Running offers so many opportunities to talk, to feel apart of the community and to help raise the awareness of suicide. My younger siblings, family, friends and I host a bake sale/lemonade stand every year around the end of school, and we split the proceeds for the American Cancer Society and Alive&Running Suicide Prevention. This past year, after three days, we donated $1,305.00 to Alive and Running.  My best friend Megan Keough and I also combined our birthday parties one year and asked for donations instead of presents, and now my sister carries on this wonderful tradition to help increase the total and awareness.

Alive and Running promotes a way for people to understand and help prevent suicide through education, research and advocacy.  The volunteers, founders and people surrounding the organization are so kind-hearted and are the most selfless groups of people I will ever meet in my entire life.  You can’t wonder for answers and find them throughout the sky lantern lift off or while you’re running the 5K, but you can find a family. You can find love, and you can find yourself while feeling lost.

Whoever is feeling this way, talk to someone. It’s as simple as that. Depression is not weird Others are suffering as well. It’s how you choose to react and live your life from that point on.  Don’t be afraid to share whatever is going on because you don’t come across as weak. You will be brave.

“First of all, life is worth living, and I guess I base that off of my friend. He did it 25 years ago, and I think of all the stuff he missed out on.  Like proms, homecomings, graduation, his first job, his first car, all of the memories he missed out on because he did that, and that is why I say life is worth living. It’s going to get better. The other thing is, the whole conversation is about hope vs. hopeless,” Belmer said.

If you are interested in being apart with Alive and Running, you can go to to their website www.suicideawarenessiowa.org for more information. If you’re thinking about suicide or feeling the weight of depression dragging on your shoulders, you can attend support groups or call the national crisis hotline (1-800-273-TALK) or the suicide line (1-800-273-8255).

Remember suicide is never the answer. No matter what type of wall you are faced with, there will always be a way to climb over it. If the true intent is to end your life, you’ll never know what could have been or how much better life can get.

Are you going to run the race to raise up awareness?

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