Dozens of pairs of shoes lined the Carson Valley Museum & Cultural Center steps Saturday representing stories of people who have been touched by suicide.
“Life can be a struggle as represented by these shoes,” said Debbie Posnien executive director of the Suicide Prevention Network of Douglas County. “You are here to represent these people, and reach out a hand in prevention.”
More than 140 people attended the seventh annual Suicide Prevention Network’s Walk in Memory/Walk for Hope event.
“I am overwhelmed with your attendance. We have so many who have come because they really, truly want to make a difference in our community,” Posnien said prior to the walk. “A suicide happens every 40 minutes, which means there is someone in our community contemplating suicide right now.”
Cathy Goss of Minden walked with her children, Gracie, 6, and Lucas, 4, in memory of her sister-in-law.
The children saved all of their spare change and made a $30 donation to the event.
“We lost her, and we lost a big part of my brother with her. Our family means a lot to us,” Goss said. “We are walking in honor of her. She made a mistake, and we want her to know we all still love her. We want to keep others aware and communication open so other people don’t choose a permanent solution for temporary problems.”
The walkers wore a rainbow of colored ribbons representing mothers, fathers, grandfathers, grandmothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, children, and friends.
Debbie Sweningsen of Gardnerville walked in memory of a friend and a friend’s son.
“I want to make this an every year thing,” she said of her participation. “It’s heartwarming, the participation and general feeling of the crowd that’s here.”
Carson City resident Caron Knee lost her son to suicide in 2007.
She was thankful for the open dialogue people have now about suicide.
“Suicide used to be such a taboo topic. Nobody would talk about it. I’m glad to see there is a support group here once a week,” she said. “Not that we’ve gotten over it, but the pain gets a little less, and you can go on with your life. Support groups help you to know you’re not alone.”
Retired Air Guard member and 1991 Douglas graduate Rob Webster spoke about his struggles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after multiple overseas deployments.
“The war zone would break your heart. The smells, visions and sounds are unexplainable. After three years of multiple deployments I wasn’t getting any sleep. I was daydreaming the war zone,” he said. “I saw myself as weak and vulnerable. I had a heart attack of the soul when life becomes too hard to bear.
“I had no one to call and no where to go. I needed help. Since then I’ve served eight more honorable years of service and married the most loving wife. We are here to walk forward this morning. Please have the courage to share your truth to help push someone forward.”
Network board member and East Fork Deputy Chief Tim Soule joined the cause to be a part of something proactive in the community.
“I want to support folks who have issues,” he said. “One of the goals of Suicide Prevention Network is to network available groups and fill holes, so there is a way to reach out when folks are in that dark time. There is always hope.”
Soule added that in Douglas County contributing factors to suicide include mental health issues, high incidents of drug or alcohol abuse, socio-economic issues, and not enough social services and awareness.
East Fork Fire Capt. Terry Taylor said Douglas County continues to struggle with a high suicide rate.
“We have a suicide rate that is out of balance for our population,” he said. “There have been 10 since Jan. 1. In 2012 we had over 200 attempts.”
This year’s numbers rival 2007 when Taylor personally responded to eight of the 12 calls.
“It’s debilitating when your career is aimed at protecting lives,” he said. “It has an impact when you go in and can’t help somebody.”
For more information, visit www.suicidepreventionofdouglascounty.org.